Commentary: Neighbors dig in over dugouts

Woodbrook is a stable, quiet, middle class neighborhood where you will find families that have lived here for over 20 years. A few of them have purchased two homes in the neighborhood. It is a neighborhood of caring individuals who are active in the greater community. It’s a place where, when faced with the worst December storm in recorded history, neighbors generously volunteered to help each other dig out.

For almost a year now, the Woodbrook Neighborhood has been under attack. Starting last May, residents first fought off a new road, then an eight-foot wide path connection to Arden Place. Now, the Carson Raymond Foundation wants to build two concrete block dugouts for Woodbrook Field that some have characterized as “bunkers”.

The dugouts have become a particularly sore point with residents. In April, vandals in Manchester, NH destroyed the tee ball dugouts there. In 2008, school officials in Greenville, ME considered tearing down their dugouts when beer cans, cigarette butts, graffiti and condoms were found after a night of partying by local vandals. While it’s true that Woodbrook School has offered to clean up the graffiti, and pick up the trash, these are problems that Woodbrook does not currently have.

One proposal offered by the school is to lock the dugouts. Locking the dugouts requires even more than the already overwhelming amount of chain link fencing. And, as every determined vandal knows, there are ways to get around locks. The only people who will really be stopped by locks are Woodbrook children looking to enjoy the field during after school hours.

“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,” wrote Woodbrook resident Mary Hobson in a comment on this blog. Mary’s comment reflects the frustrations of many Woodbrook residents. “We do not need to make Woodbrook into a major (Little) league status field if residents have concerns,” wrote Michael O’Grady. In referring to graffiti, J.O. Perkins wrote, “Cinderblock is inviting.” And to school official’s suggestion that neighbors should feel free to call the police to report crime on the field Audrey Kocher wrote, “Advice to call the cops avoids the issue. The issue is crime prevention.”

And as for the need to shade young tee ball players one anonymous visitor to this blog wrote, “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.” No kid I know would give up an afternoon of outdoor fun for lack of shade.

It’s perhaps no wonder then that in a recent straw poll of 49 Woodbrook residents, of those with a preference, 72% wanted a simpler, lighter design for the dugouts, or no dugouts at all.

You might conclude from all of this that Woodbrook residents just don’t like change. Not so. But well thought out change benefits everyone, not just for those asking for it.

So, Foundation, how about this? Forget the dugouts. Instead, create a setting that complements the beauty and serenity of this small neighborhood without distracting from it. Create a place where children can play ball during the day and where Woodbrook residents can enjoy a quiet evening. Lose the architect and hire a great landscaper. Plant beautiful trees that hide all that fencing without creating a place for vandals to hide. Install benches, instead of dugouts, so we can sit and admire the sunset or watch our kids enjoy the field. Work with us to create a place that you and Woodbrook residents can proudly share.

12 thoughts on “Commentary: Neighbors dig in over dugouts

  1. Thank you for a thoughtful post. Seems like a great compromise (a win-win) and a wonderful memorial!

    Mary Hanna

  2. I am all for benches, a light wooden structure, and chain link fencing on sides and back. People could certainly keep the kids together that way. Anyway, parents go to the ball games and can encourage their kids to stay with the coaches. It is almost certain that any "dugout" with solid walls, even if only at the bottom 36", will block the view from the bleachers. Will there be any more meetings with the planners of this project?

  3. Jenny,

    When asked at the last meeting, Dr. Sterrett did not foresee any future meetings. He did, however, promise to contact the Woodbrook Community Association via President Reed before any additional work was done on the field.

  4. This blog is not based on any factual evidence. You are only creating fear and hysteria and should be ashamed of yourselves.
    This field will keep kids active and engaged. Furthermore, dugouts do not produce crimes, communities do – communities that prevent baseball fields from being built for children. Wake up!
    -An Appalled Charlottesville Community Member

  5. Anonymous: We have checked and double-checked the facts in this posting. If you spot an error in the factual portion of this posting we hope you will point it out here. Signing your real name to your comment will give it more weight.

    To suggest that we are creating "hysteria" is to suggest that the residents of Woodbrook are not capable of arriving at their own opinion of how they would like to see their neighborhood evolve. Such is not the case. The good folks of Woodbrook are intelligent, caring people who are perfectly capable of weighing and understanding the issues for themselves.

  6. I certainly don't believe I was participating in any "fear-mongering." I was only trying to offer a compromise where everyone might be happy. There would still be dug-outs, but there would be no place to hide around them.

  7. AAHHHH !!!! I have hysteria?? why did'nt anyone tell me sooner?? Really, Being a father I can only begin to imagine the pain of the raymond family. I think that the fondation is a VERY admirable and worthy entity.
    Having had my 2 of my sons and two of their friends accousted,confronted with knives and a gun (airsoft) held to my sons head, I believe I have pretty good right to say something about WES.
    MY sons and friends were held against their will(with knives and a gun) by one older neighborhood kid and 2 abbington crossing brothers and a third from I don't know where. These individuals told my boys that the neighborhood individual went home to get his dads revolver THis happened… guess where?? Right at the pick up door against the back of the SHED! I don't think the dugout idea is the best option to honor the famliy and our neighborhood.
    My answer would be open,inviting benchesout in the open where everyone can see everyone.
    Michael Juers

  8. Please.. You just don't want those dugouts…and your using crime as an excuse. That is awful that crimes are happening but is the neighborhood saying that if the shed wasn't there, the crime wouldn't happen? People it is not a strip club.. it is part of a baseball pastime..it's not so our children won't misbehave at the games, it's a part of the fun! I am ashamed of this neighborhood. What has the world come to that we have to live in fear like this? It is just sad.. you letting the criminals win- thanks

  9. While crime is just one component of the reason that a majority of Woodbrookians are against the dugouts, it is none-the-less very real for residents like Mr. Juers.

  10. part of the baseball pastime? get real. this is an elementary school and we are talking about tee-ball, NOT baseball. the dugouts are excessive. the concerns over crime may be excessive as well, but they are not unfounded. the field exists, kids can play, all should be happy. the dugouts are not needed for the kids to enjoy themselves anymore than they need chewing tobacco to get the real baseball experience.

  11. When I heard they were putting Dugouts on the field, it never crossed my mind about any of these crimes. I never thought that kids would be doing drugs, vandalizing property or commiting any other crimes with the dugouts. There are plenty of places kids will do all of that stuff. Should we take down all of the dugouts all over the city? Maybe put gates up on all public parking lots so kids can't go sit in there cars and do all of these things? I am sure the dugout at an elementary school is the last place any kid would think to do any of that stuff. I think it is a great idea to put the dugouts up. This foundation is trying to help kids who can't afford to play tee-ball and baseball and trying to make sure they have the best experience possible. They are not trying to put up dugouts to bring crime or obstuct a view, but to have a great baseball experience for all kids who want to play. These dugouts should help in bringing down the crime rate in the area not cause crime. It is proven that kids that are involved in an activity, like baseball, are less likley to be part of a gang, commit crimes or go to jail. So maybe instead of worrying about the view and the crimes that would be commited, think about the kids that the improvements to this field will acutally help.

  12. So, because you "never thought that kids would be doing drugs, vandalizing property or commiting any other crimes with the dugouts" you are somehow "sure the dugout at an elementary school is the last place a kid would do that stuff"? So your ignorance and naviety means anyone who thinks otherwise is overreacting?? Yes, there are plenty of places kids (and let's be clear, no one is concerned about the actual elementary school students) will get in trouble, but your argument is foolish: without dugouts it won't be fun for the kids, and therefore they won't play and will run off and join a gang. C'mon. Remember, there are two distinct age groups being debated here: the under 10 kids who will play and enjoy the field and the 13+ who will roam the field at night and do as they please.

    You might think people are overreacting and feeling a bit nimby-ish, but you can't really believe that, can you? And do you really think the kids playing tee-ball are the ones that will be causing the trouble late-night?

    No one is arguing against the field and the sport; it is absolutely a great idea to build up the field and provide a fun place for children to play. But how do dugouts make it "the best experience possible"? An just because the Foundaton is not "trying" to attract crime with the dugouts, does not mean they won't. People could go into that field and drink/do drugs/have sex without the dugouts present, but there is no arguing the dugouts make it a more inviting locale for such activities. There is nothing wrong with people not wanting that in their backyard.

    And why get caught up in the dugouts being an essential part of the experience? What about a scoreboard? Simple benches and a real scoreboard would be way more impressive to the kids.

    The point is, the kids will have a blast without the bunker style dugouts, so why build them in that style? To show the cranks in the neighborhood who's the boss? I am sure the Foundation could do other valuable and more universally supported work with their donations.

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