Field Maintenance

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences.

Here are some tips for getting those fields ready for spring play. Photos Courtesy of Randy Gaddo

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of maintenance for the average local parks and recreation department is natural-turf sports-field preparation for the spring season.

As with so many other maintenance issues, there are no cookie-cutter solutions. Depending on the specific environment, the challenges are going to differ. Even departments whose jurisdictions border each other can have vastly different issues depending on politics, funding, public support, and a host of other variables.

Every climate across the country and around the world calls for a different approach. The type of turf that works in one climate might not thrive in an adjacent state. One type of pest might be able to devour a whole field in days in one place but not even be a threat in others. Wetter climates may have soil run-off problems while dryer climates face wind-erosion issues.

Due to this level of diversity, this column has insufficient space in which to propose the “best” way to prepare for the spring season. However, I will try to suggest some common areas that departments share.

Communicate For Cooperation

In warmer climates these days, local youth and adult sports can be almost non-stop, year-round. Even in colder, wetter climates, there are always dedicated athletes who want to use ball fields, but use can quickly become abuse when it is constant, heavy, and unmitigated.

So one of the first things rec departments have to do is demand downtime for field maintenance. That’s not always easy with public fields, especially those that don’t have tall fences and gates with locks.

Communication with local sports-group leaders can streamline a department’s efforts to keep people off the fields. Explaining the reasons for downtime—safer fields, fewer injuries, and better-looking fields—lets users know that the work is in their best interests as taxpayers and for their children’s safety.

Communicating directly to the members can save time, and the message will be delivered by people closer and more familiar to individual users. An alternative is to speak to general member meetings of these groups. Either way, the personal touch can accomplish two goals—good public relations and fewer people on the fields.

To drive the point home, consider taking some digital pictures of areas of the fields that need maintenance, such as rutted soccer or football fields, “lips” of mounded dirt around infields of baseball fields or prairie dog holes in the outfield. Send the pictures out to sports-league members and indicate what will be done to make their fields safer.

Looks like this infield needs some tender loving care!

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