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: