Saturday, July 26, 2008

The miniest of surveys

They say the longest journey begins with a single step. This morning I took a few teensy, weensy baby steps on what promises to be an interesting journey to a destination at this moment very much unknown.

There's a nascent effort underway to see about adding a varsity level youth baseball field somewhere in South City. No sites have been identified and the process is at the very beginning. The Journal has run a couple of articles on the issue over the past two months. One possible location is in Wilmore Park.

I've made a few preliminary phone calls to people on the issue. Today, I took the dog and we went down to Wilmore to walk the area and see about getting some feedback from park users.

I received feedback from an interesting cross section of park users: a couple of older women from South County walking their dogs, a city mom jogging with her dog and young daughter, a couple highly experienced in neighborhood affairs and city business, and a single women from the Lindenwood neighborhood walking for exercise. Here's their feedback about the very general idea of building a new baseball field at Wilmore.

The County ladies were generally against it. They cautioned that something like this is going against the establishment and the environment. They said the city teams should go to Clydesdale Park in South County near Grant's Farm.

The city mom with her daughter in the stroller turned out to have two young sons in elementary school. She lives in the St. Louis Hills Estates area. She was in favor of the concept, and also thought Francis Park should be considered.

The savvy city person was open to the idea, wanting more information on cost and maintenance responsibilities before forming a position.

And the single lady walking was very much in favor. She stated that the area being considered was generally very lightly used and that this would be something good for the park and city youth.

So all in all, that's pretty positive. Out of this completely unscientific sample, it turns out the only people strongly negative to the concept were from St. Louis County.

People are protective of what they have and uncomfortable with change. At the same time, most St. Louisans want to do right by kids and love baseball. It will be interesting to see what happens with this idea in the months to come.

On a related note, there's an effort underway to construct a new public high school football stadium in Fairground Park in North City. It's a similar situation: there's a lack of quality football fields for city school teams. Fairground Park is very historic. The field is proposed to built with private funds. Has anyone heard if this effort is still in the works? Football season is about to begin and it's been months since I've heard anything new on this project.


stlmark said...

What about Fultz Field on the Great Rivers Greenway bike trail on River Des Peres? I've always thought that was a nice ball field. It could use some TLC, but nice location.

Rick Bonasch said...

Hi Mark-

That is a good field, commonly referred to as "the Greens". The problem is, it's subject to poor drainage and is often unplayable.

The other challenge is, like just about every existing city softball field, baseball field, or soccer field, it's use is fully spoken for under currently awarded permits.

These permits run from year to year. They are "grandfathered in". It's a fair system. If you have an established program or league, you get priority over new permit requests.

Building a new field would "expand the pie" of playing surfaces without impinging on any team's current permit.

More on Fultz was under permit to St. John the Baptist High School. St. John closed this year, so you'd think a field permit might open up. Not so.

The new community center being built at Carondelet Park is wiping out a varsity baseball field at Carondelet Park. St. Mary's had that permit.

So, St. Mary's is getting first option on the Fultz permit. At least that's the word on the street.

stlmark said...

Wow, thanks for the skinny on "the Greens".

I am usually skeptical of using open park grounds or greenspace for development. I was thinking the Carondelet Rec plex could have been built on a city-owned abandoned property/lot in another part of the city. That would have saved the ball fields, etc in the park. Same thing applies to the youth ball field. Why couldn't they propose an abandoned lot or space in a residential neighborhood. Make it sort of a Wrigley or Fenway thing.

just a thought...