Foundation Meets with Woodbrook Residents

Carson Raymond Foundation officials met with Woodbrook residents Wednesday evening to discuss recent revisions to their plans for Woodbrook field. Approximately a dozen residents attended the meeting held in the Woodbrook Elementary School library. John Raymond and Darren Lynch represented the Foundation. Woodbrook Elementary principal Dr. William Sterrett represented the school. President Susan Reed represented the Woodbrook Neighborhood Association. I represented this blog.

The meeting opened with the presentation by Darren Lynch of a 3D rendering of the proposed field complete with dugouts and bleachers. Following Mr. Lynch’s presentation, questions were taken from Woodbrook residents.

A dugout design as proposed by the Carson Raymond Foundation. Note that this 3D rendering appears compressed in length. The actual dugout, if stood on end, would be about the height of a two story building (20 feet). Foundation officials believe this design is safe because it can be locked.

When asked how key access would be managed, Dr. Sterrett said, “There’s a schedule that’s worked out through Parks and Recreation and they work through our Building Services.” He continued, “I don’t anticipate random coaches each having a copy of key”.

Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher was concerned that the new design allows easy scaling of the back of the structure to reach the roof.

WCA President Susan Reed introduced this open design which is preferred by some Woodbrook residents. No size information is available for this structure. Residents believe this dugout is safer because of its open design.

When asked who will use the field, Carson Raymond President John Raymond said that the field would be primarily used for tee ball. He did add, however, that he did not know if Northside, the Little League organization, had plans to play their games at Woodbrook.

Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher perhaps best summed up the frustrations of many residents. “In the twelve or thirteen years I’ve been here there have been assaults on our neighborhood and I think you are getting the brunt of it. One, the development to the north of us where a lovely woods was torn down and will become commercialized — to the south where we have the Arden Place and the issues there — I thought we lived in a neighborhood family area but we have drug busts behind Kohrs — and now I think some of us, at least me, see assaults on the neighborhood from internally, and that’s the expansion of the school, making it a community place.” She continued, “I think that is, to me, an intrusion into this neighborhood.”

School officials were sympathetic. “The last thing we want to do is as a Foundation, and certainly as a principal, is to rile up the neighbors,” said Dr. Sterrett.

Some residents were concerned that the sight line from Brookmere will reveal a “pretty massive structure”. “I mean all you see when you look there now is all the screening. It’s not pretty,” said one resident.

WCA President Susan Reed said that several neighbors like the idea of benches because they could be used for more than just tee ball.

Reed then introduced a photo of a dugout of a simpler and more open design (see photo above). She went on to explain that a dugout of this design would not need to be locked up and would offer complete visibility at all times. “If you look at Pen Park, those dugouts are kept locked up, but that lock as been broken,” said Reed.

Using a tape measure to show 3 feet 6 inches, I suggested that a back wall of this height was still high enough to hide criminal activity. President Reed then gave several examples of recent crime in the neighborhood. “It’s not that we are just thinking it might happen,” said Reed, “we know this stuff goes on.”

“I’d like to show you what 20 feet looks like”, I said as I extended a tape rule out to 20 feet. Someone in the group let out a low whistle. “Now to me, that’s a big structure for any neighborhood,” I said.

When asked why the structure had to be closed, one Foundation official said, “I think when the foundation talked about designing something that the kids would enjoy that would also provide containment for the age group we are talking about.”

Woodbrook resident Beth Gould asked if use of the baseball field would interfere with soccer. According to foundation officials, the two sports cannot use the field at the same time. Gould then went on to ask “How does this co-ordinate with Central Little League or Northside league because it’s pretty elaborate for a practice field to have these huge dugouts.” Foundation officials reiterated that at present there is no demand from either Little League organization to use the field.

Referring to the open style proposed by neighbors, resident Sue Brown asked, “Is this style a style that we can compromise on?”. Tim Moran answered, “Speaking as a tee ball parent, that isn’t going to contain the kids, that is a very big concern in tee ball.” Beth Gould added, “If your kids can hide behind a wall, and their parents can’t see what they’re doing, they’re going to misbehave.”

Some Woodbrook residents argued that their neighborhood isn’t like most others. “If this wasn’t a neighborhood school that was surrounded by homes, that [the dugout] would be fine, but Woodbrook is just a different beast, because it’s the only county school that’s completely ringed,” said WCA President Susan Reed.

With regard to design approvals, Dr. Sterrett said, “it simply goes through Building Services — the amendment process.” Approval by the County not required according to Dr. Sterrett. Referring to the open design Dr. Sterrett went on to say, “I am a little weary of not having some way — I’m envisioning my kindergartner and 60 others who I think would have difficulty – as much as I like this [open design] — staying in the shaded area”.

Woodbrook resident Travis Brown asked if the dugouts needed to be 20 feet in length. “There’s no magic number there, I think that number is totally up for consideration,” said Sterrett.

With regard to the bleachers, Dr. Sterrett said, “What we are trying to avoid is a tall, unsightly bleacher structure that would be nine or ten feet tall, but instead have something that is more two or three tiered as you can see in the picture.” “You could have up to 20 to 24 [people on a bleacher]” He added, “It’s also protected by a fence for foul balls.”

From the 3D rendering it appeared that spectators might not be able to see home plate from the bleachers. Officials admitted that no one has yet worked out the site lines from the bleachers to home plate or from the dugouts to the field.

One resident suggested lowering the 3 1/2 foot wall. Foundation officials agreed to consider the idea of lowering the wall from 42 inches to 36. Ms. Kocher pointed out that reducing the structure also reduces the need for screening as vandals will no longer be able to hide in the structure.

Referring back to the open design Dr. Sterrett said, “I want to say that it’s going to be real easy in a strictly open one like this to bring a six-pack — hypothetically — sit down there right there, with nobody around, and just leave your empty six-pack there. What we like about [the block structure] is the fact that it can be locked. It will be locked.”

There ensued a lengthy discussion about the safety of the two designs from a crime point of view. Some Woodbrook residents felt that openness was the best deterrent while Foundation officials felt that a closed, locked design would work better. Residents and Foundation officials were unable to come to a consensus on this issue.

Susan Reed asked who would be responsible for keeping the bushes behind the dugout in check. Officials assured residents the selected shrubs grow to a maximum height of three feet.

“Who would get the call if that [the dugout] gets graffiti?” asked President Reed. “The school, just like if a shed got spray painted,” answered Dr. Sterrett.

Reed continued, “Is your theory — If you build it they will come. The reason I am asking this is because as we’ve said Central Little League and Northside are already set up for that [field use] — I’m still just trying to figure out is this just basically a practice field or are you anticipating [other uses]?” Foundation officials replied that they hope that one-day league games will be played on the field but for now it’s a practice-only field.

I asked Dr. Sterrett if his successor, who takes over the role of principal July 1st, will have the same passion for keeping this field clean, cared for and locked. “It’s the principal and custodian’s role to maintain the premises, in other words, if graffiti is reported it’s in our job description to handle that,” replied Principal Sterrett.

One resident asked who is responsible for picking up trash after a game. “Whoever sanctions the use of the building or the property is required to maintain it,” said Dr. Sterrett. In other words, to use school property you must first agree to clean up after yourself.

I asked if there were techniques the architects could use to make the structure look lighter, not so much like a bunker, to which president Reed added, “you think of cinder block as being like a prison ward”. Residents generally agreed that earth tones would be more appropriate for dugout colors. A Foundation official said, “we can definitely do that without any problem.”

In a subsequent email message to this blog, Dr. Sterrett wrote that no further construction would take place before communicating with the neighborhood via WCA President Susan Reed.

Full audio from the meeting is here:

10 thoughts on “Foundation Meets with Woodbrook Residents

  1. I do not undestand how the "LOCK Process" will work. Is this a lock that requires a key? If so who maintins the key access? How will a team get the key? On weekends? Who can get the key? "If you look at Pen Park, those dugouts are kept locked up, but that lock has been broken," said Reed.

    Here is

    Instead of locking and cinder block, why not just put up Chain link fencing like the rest? If the object is to contain the kids, why not a completely visible open chain link screening? This will contain but will not hide anyone or activities. And would arequire no lock!!
    I am sending another picture ofthis completely open dugout which contains the players.

    It just doesn't make sense to me that they want to build a structure that can hide activities, then want to lock it up so you cannot accees it unless you have away to unlock the lock?

    If not a key then will it be a coded lock? If that is the case anyone can share the code and everybody will have access and there will be NO Security?

  2. I'm sorry I couldn't attend the meeting (I had a class). I appreciate that the Foundation is making an effort to answer the neighborhood concerns, but their design change does not go far enough. There are Little League fields in use this season at both Hollymead and Baker-Butler where the "dugouts" look very much like the one in the photo Susan Reed shared at the meeting (pictured above). They provide the shade that some families want, the openness and earth tones the neighborhood wants, and the lack of hiding spots (crime magnets) that I think we in the neighborhood should insist upon. The players, coaches, and parents who are using those same dugouts at the other schools must not have the same interest in containment that was voiced at the meeting. That argument sounds just… strange to me. It makes me wonder if there is some other agenda or interests that are at force here. I want to know what we can do at this point to ensure that any dugouts put in at Woodbrook are the open wooden ones — NOT CINDERBLOCK.

  3. The most important and fundamental issue is the upgrades to the field. Thanks to the Foundation, that is now a non-issue. We can all agree upon that. The dugouts are clearly the main issue of contention. If there is a concern about the size, configuration, color, alternative uses, etc., then why can't we agree to disagree. The best idea may be to install benches and chain-link dugout areas. These can later be upraded if needed. I understand the concern for shade and an overhead protective roof, but our same kids are the ones who play soccer and ride bikes and play outside during the hot summer months without a roof. we layer them with sunscreen and protective clothing, and we hope nobody gets burned. Plus, aren't the kids playing tee ball in the sun anyway? That's the whole point. For this, the Foundation ought to be commended. The rest are details that I feel lose sight of the goals of the Foundation and, by extension, the community. We do not need to make Woodbrook into a major (Little) league status field if residents have concerns.

  4. Dr. Sterrett has made much of the concern for possibility of graffiti on/in the dugouts. Remember that there will be TWO (2) of them. Well if you make the dupgouts with chain link type screens,completley open on front, back and sides, with a covered sunshade roof, then the likleyhood of grafitti is almost zero. Cinderblock is inviting. Linked screen fencing is not.

  5. Here's a slightly different idea – A dugout is often partially below ground. If the dugouts could be a step or two down, this would provide a containment of sorts for the kids, and Susan's open design dugout could be placed overhead for shade, which I think is important for the kids' health in the summer heat.

    Alternatively, why not think about Susan's open design dugout at ground level with chain link fence around it for team containment?

  6. While I am concerned about the dugout issues, there are other issues I am concerned about. I am worried that there is not yet a planned follow up meeting and the school does not see a need for one. I think a lot more work is needed on the dugout issue. Also important is the lack of a defined plan for the ongoing up keep of the ball park. The ball park is part of a larger issue that became magnified by the general dissatisfaction with the upkeep and safety of the entire school area. Crime/safety issues have increased. Trash is currently a problem. We all call the cops; sometimes I do weekly. Advice to call the cops avoids the issue. The issue is crime prevention. We have not reached discussion of the bleachers: cleaning up trash, food, cutting the grass under the bleachers. I do not want folks hiding under there or in dugouts, getting bitten by opossiums, snakes, getting poison ivy. The bleachers are wonderful for that unless maintained. I do not want to look at an unsightly area. Trash accumulation in the woods is getting worse. Once a year clean up by volunteers is not enough. I prefer to have appropriate for the neighborhood ball park and a perpetual plan for it's up keep. It would not be a fitting memorial to a wonderful little boy to have less than that.

  7. Having 2 20 feet dugouts on a playground in a neighborhood where at least 20 homes touch on the school property is just too much! Especially when they are only being proposed for practice fields and to "corral kindgergartners". Dr. Sterrett has made repeated references to school kids playing during recess or free time–there is certainly not time for a t-ball game during that amount of time and the truncated version they'd be able to play would not validate the need for a dugout. I'd much rather see just the improvements on the field, maybe some benches (that could be used by other spectators for sports or parents watching kids on the playground), and perhaps a memorial plaque. Large dugouts would look far less out of place and be far less intrusive at a free standing school that is not in a neighborhood. Google dugouts and crime and see what you find . And once these things are in, we are stuck with them! People who bought their homes here had a reasonable expectation of certain views, etc; if you had bought your home with a view of the playground you certainly wouldn't expect massive structures to obstruct your view later!

    It is NOT, as someone tried to suggest at the meeting, that neighbors object to the noise of kids playing on the playground. We simply don't want large, unwieldy structures that will almost certainly attract grafitti, people hiding behind them, and etc. The knife incident that took place on Woodbrook's playground a couple of months ago was behind one of the sheds. Do we need to give the bad guys another hiding place? And it's just SO unnecessary! We were told early on that the dugouts would NOT be built if the Woodbrook neighborhood didn't want them. But somehow all they say now is that they really want them.

  8. Can someone fill me in as to why they keep listening to neighborhood input, and at what point are they just going to do what they want to? These dugouts really make no sense for a tee-ball field. There must be "bigger" actions at play here that are causing larger and more costly than necessary facilities to be designed.

  9. What happens if the Foundation runs out of money and those dugouts are here? I know people don't think that will happen, but foundations do die out all the time: time passes, people forget the original people, etc. If money has been spent on several fields and etc. and money isn't left, who will maintain the dugouts then? The county A) doesn't have much money and B) can barely keep up with routine maintenance on the school grounds. Let alone adding cleaning up trash, grafitti, mowing under bleachers, etc. Mr. Raymond's other children may also have different interests and so he may not spend as much time at Woodbrook in baseball later.

    And why do we have to have such big structures for tee ball when soccer is BY FAR the more popular sport played at WB? These will take up room.

    I'm also worried about the rapidity with which this has progressed. The CR Foundation would have liked to have this up this season if they could have. And yet they aren't sure if the dugouts will block the base line view from the bleachers.

    Why does Dr. Sterrett keep mentioning WB school kids playing during recess and free time as a reason for dugouts? There isn't time during recess or free time (unless free time is WAY longer than I think) to play a game and you don't need dugouts for those purposes. And why did he keep mentioning kindergartners as the need for dugouts?

    All the talk of needing shade amuses me; try a track meet! They go on for hours and the kids have to find what little shade they can? Don't think kids playing at recess or for practices are in that dire of need of shade.

    Finally, how does this benefit the Woodbrook neighborhood at all? Bragging rights? People in the neighborhood won't be able to use any locked dugouts (unless it's to hide behind or climb on OR they happen to be on a team that practices there) Is it the bodacious benefit of extra traffic? The potential perk of possible unsightly trash, grafitti, unseemly activity, etc.

    Simple benches with a memorial plaque could be used by neighbors out for a walk, parents watching kids on the playground, soccer families, etc. In short, that WOULD benefit the neighborhood. The improvements to the field are welcome, but the dugouts are not! And if the dugouts get built and attract the wrong element and aren't properly maintained and make people angry, they won't be a fitting memorial to a child who died way too young.

  10. I have an idea that might work for everyone. What about a wooden structure, such as the ones at Pen Park, with chain link on the sides and back and benches for the kids to sit on? That would give both containment and openness. What do you think? Have they talked about this?

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