Fact Checking the Foundation

The Thursday June 24, 2010 edition of WINA’s The Shilling Show featured an interview with Carson Raymond Foundation’s Fund Raising Chairman Dana Alston. During the interview, Mr. Alston answered questions on a number of topics relating to the Foundation’s plans to construct dugouts at Woodbrook Elementary School.

We’ve done some fact checking on Mr. Alston’s statements. Our analysis follow his comments which are show in italics below.

“We had four meetings, now, with the Woodbrook Community — we’ve amended [the design] after each meeting.” While it’s true there were four meetings, only the second and third meetings resulted in amendments to the design.

“As a board we’re kind of surprised and confused – we’ve made every change that they’ve asked for.” Woodbrook Community leaders requested an open, wooden framed design at its third and fourth meetings. The Foundation has so far declined to consider any proposals other than its own split-faced concrete block design.

“I don’t know why they felt [the dugouts] was a new nuisance [for crime].” For reasons not fully understood by us, dugouts, particularly concrete block dugouts, are a magnet for vandals and graffiti. A Google search for “dugouts AND graffiti” produced more than 25,000 hits, the majority of those are related to vandalism.

  • Img00001.jpg
  • Img00002.jpg
  • Img00003.jpg
  • Img00004.jpg
  • Img00005.jpg
  • Img00006.jpg
  • Img00007.jpg
  • Img00008.jpg
  • Img00009.jpg
  • Img00010.jpg
The photos in this slide show were collected from an Internet search under in ten minutes. There are many other stories of dugout vandalism for which photos were not available.

“There’s not going to be anything older than a t-ball child playing in there, anyway, so we can’t have big massive games and older kids there anyhow.” In a December 6, 2009 interview with this blog, Carson Raymond Foundation President John Raymond said, “The first part of the plan is to tear down the existing backstop, which we did two weeks ago, it was old and not really useful for a Little League field.” According to Wikipedia, t-ball is a game played by children from 5 to 8 years of age, Little League is for children aged 9 to 12.

“Athletic programs have proven that it reduces crime that children have another activity to be involved in.” Reports from Woodbrook residents suggest that it’s teenage children that are committing the current rash of crimes, not t-ball aged children.

“A field of that size only holds a t-ball game.” While it’s true that the field is not usable for softball, it will have 60-foot baselines making it suitable for both t-ball and Little League games.

“As many people that are opposed, we have that many people that are for [the dugouts].” According to a straw poll conducted by this blog earlier this year, Woodbrook residents are opposed to the screened, split-face concrete block dugout design by a factor of almost 3-1.

“I think that there’s a small contingent that are really opposed to it but they seem to be carrying the loudest voices at this point.” The Woodbrook Community Association’s Board of Directors, the duly elected representatives for the community, are unanimously opposed to the construction of concrete block dugouts at the school.

You can listen to Mr. Alston’s interview in its entirety on the WINA website. As always, your comments are invited.

16 thoughts on “Fact Checking the Foundation

  1. You have hit on most of the reactions I had as I listened to the radio interview cited. I especially object to the tone that suggested we on the HOA board were some sort of fringe element that was somehow working against the entire neighborhood's wishes for our own nefarious purposes.

    As you stated above, we were elected by the neighborhood! We have worked very hard at informing the whole neighborhood of the upcoming meetings – 3 separate times copying hundreds of flyers and walking to every house to distribute them. We have had discussions with as many neighbors as we run into as we go about our daily lives here in our home neighborhood.

    While walking my dogs, working in the yard, watching the kids play at the playground, walking home from PTO meetings, I have only once been approached by a neighbor who wants the concrete dugouts, and even they seemed to agree that the locked gates were a potential problem.

    Can you see my point here? This is our home, we live here, and especially for the homeowners whose property abuts the field, we do not want these structures here.

    We appreciate the improved field at the school (as long as it is maintained).

    We empathize with the Raymond family's loss (as long as the Foundation doesn't try to steamroll an inappropriate, unwanted structure into our neighborhood).

    We do NOT appreciate serving as the Foundation's "guinea pig" when it comes to trying out the new field improvements before taking them across the region (a phrase quoted and recorded at one of the earlier meetings, even though it was denied being said at the last meeting at the school).

    And I personally am dismayed that the tone taken by the Foundation at this point is one of dismissal, and that they are (dare I say it?) stooping to untruths, as evidenced by the fact-checking noted above.

  2. A dugout??!! Since when do young children playing a ball game need a dugout of any sort? It was suggested that it may be too hot for the children to sit in the sun. If it's the case that it's too hot for the children to sit quietly in the sun when they're not on the field then it's certainly too hot to play ball. Go to a pool instead. This isn't pro-ball we're talking about here. But, if you need shade, plant trees!!!

    Little league games are quite different from t-ball games in terms of attendance, noise, and damage to the area, and do not belong on a field located in the center of a quiet, residential neighborhood. This is what public parks are for.

  3. In the spirit of full disclosure I just heard today from 2 neighbors who very clearly said they didn't mind the dugouts. They didn't see how crime would be affected, saying there are already plenty of structures that could be crime magnets on the school grounds. I have the impression they thought maybe I was making too big a deal about the dugouts.

    But they also mentioned their bikes and their neighbor's bikes were stolen the weekend after my kids bikes were stolen! Walking around the track at 10PM the other night, I was imagining how creepy it would be with those hulking dark dugouts back there. I don't think I'd be walking the track after dark if they were there.

  4. School property is treated as a park resource during non-school hours, and as such is open to the public during daylight hours and closed to the public after sunset. Given that no one should be on the school property late at night, our community can increase watch efforts and and refer all after hours activity on school property directly to the police (dugouts or not).

  5. Since we live right across the street from the swings and basketball courts I have a pretty good sense of how often people are in the school grounds after dark. I'd say during the summer it's almost every night. I have called the police a number of times, last time was a few weeks ago when one of my kids said that a basketball player asked where he could get some weed 🙁

    My problem with the dugouts is that they would be away from the street and there are no lights back there, and no way to tell if some one is vandalizing them until it's found in the morning. If any of those pictures above are an indication, concrete walls seem to be a special invitation for spray paint. And if there are fences and locks to mess with, all the better!

  6. Several people, mostly those in favor of the dugouts, have suggested that the police be called whenever we have a problem at the school. After all, isn't that what the police are for?

    Perhaps. But don't we, as citizens, also have a responsibility to help the police reduce crime? The police aren't some, distant, unknown entity that come to take care of our problems then disappear again. They too are citizens of this county and every time we call them to take care of our problems, we put them at risk.

    We have an opportunity here to do the right thing to reduce crime without putting our friends in blue at unnecessary risk. We don't have to build bunker-like structures on an elementary school playground. There are alternatives.

  7. Not everyone in Woodbrook thinks the dugouts are a bad idea. As the residents age it seems they are less tolerant of things that their own children may have benefited from a few short years ago. One neighbor said he felt embarassed to live in Woodbrook after he read the negative comments in the blog. I hope a positive resolution can be reached.

  8. The dugouts only benefit a few children, but truthfully a 5-yr-old does not need dugouts to enjoy playing ball.

    Kids would enjoy a swimming pool too, but that doesn't mean we build one on school property.

    Are the dugouts really worth the risk of crime and trash in the neighborhood?

  9. I still don't see where locked dugouts will increase crime and trash. There are swings and playground equipment and basketball courts and locked sheds, and a track, but they don't seem to be a magnet for crime, either. And crime such as stolen bikes and car break-ins happen in Forest Lakes, Hollymead, Glenmore, etc. etc. etc. It is not endemic to Woodbrook. It DOES correlate to bored teenagers.

    If the HOA reps think they represent the views of the neighborhood, I challenge them to call a meeting of residents, at the school, with the foundation plans and representatives present, and let ALL residents see the area, hear about the plans, and take a vote. Make sure this meeting is held at a time when it is convenient for all residents, not just ones of a particular demographic, and make sure it is well advertised so that all can attend, not just friends of HOA reps who already agree with them.

    If the HOA reps are to carry the "will of the residents" then let that will be known by a majority vote of all residents. And if the majority of the residents are fine with the field upgrades, then let the HOA reps step back and do their elected duty.

    "There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them." ~Andre Gide

    And perhaps most appropriately, "Fear is the highest fence." ~Dudley Nichols

  10. The meeting dates were as follows:

    11/08/09: Publicized by a blog posting, and by email.

    12/08/10: Flyers were distributed to all Woodbrook residents. It was also publicized by a blog posting, and by email. This meeting was canceled by the Foundation.

    01/12/10: Rescheduled from Dec 8th. Flyers were distributed to all Woodbrook residents. It was also publicized by a blog posting, and by email.

    04/21/10: Flyers were distributed to all Woodbrook residents. It was also publicized by a blog posting, and by email.

    06/10/10: Foundation left insufficient time for the distribution of flyers. Neighbors were represented by Woodbrook Community Association Board.

    Anonymous states above, "I challenge them to call a meeting of residents, at the school, with the foundation plans and representatives present, and let ALL residents see the area, hear about the plans" — this is exactly what happened at the April 21st meeting.

    With regard to the dugout issue, three sets of flyers were distributed to every neighbor. There have been ample opportunities for all residents to voice their concerns or support.

  11. Mary stated that her "problem with the dugouts is that they would be away from the street and there are no lights back there, and no way to tell if someone is vandalizing them until it's found in the morning." I agree, but the reality is that the darkness of the field and proximity to numerous escape routes (including through my yard) makes it a desirable late-night destination for youths whether you build a bunker or a simple bench. Lighting would be the only deterrent to crime, and I doubt anyone wants the field lit. An open design could prevent graffiti but would have no effect on other activities (e.g., drinking, smoking, drugs, sex, etc…). When people say they worry about "crime", do they only mean graffiti?

    Also, I doubt anyone from outside the neighborhood would trek to the dugouts to engage in criminal activities. The kids to worry about are those that live in the neighborhood. Therefore, some responsibility falls on the parents.

  12. I was hoping this discussion would be more about the accuracy of Mr. Alston's comments.

    Your comments will carry more weight if you post using your real name.

  13. The issues surrounding the improvements of the ball park such as crime and trash have been brewing for some time. The extent of the improvements may worsen those issues. It is the straw that has broken the camel's back. Prevention of crime/degradation of a site is always the better approach.

    Focus has been on the dugouts and crime but there are other issues such as trash, greater use of the park than stated and traffic. There has not been any reassurance or plan that the area will be kept clean and the improvements such as dugouts, screen or bleachers will be kept in good condition over the coming years. In addition, 9 foot high dugouts, a trashy school ground will ruin my view and make re sale of my property a problem.

    I do not see policing the park by residents on Idlewood and keeping up with trash as the neighbors job. Most of us on the school side of Idlewood are over 60. The crime and trash has gotten worsen over the years. I recently found a beach chair that was being used during the night. Trash after soccer games is not cleaned up by the soccer folks or others. Crime is spilling over into my property. Calling the police does not improve the statistics I see.

    The ball park is currently being used by families but also by organized teams. These are little leagers who come with their expensive bat/sports bags all lined up along the wire fence. They are well supervised and have a good time. They are welcome. The park is well used by others than t ball groups. It is the lack of disclosure by the planners of the ball park that is distressing. All are welcome if there is reassuracne and plans to keep the park clean, in good cocndition and of a size and scale appropriate for a neighborhood.

    Parking is another problem. During soccer games a month ago, 2 vehicles were photograhed parked on school grass while 2 parking lots in the formt and side of school were empty. This causes erosion and an unpleasant view from the street. Kids have to walk through the mud to avoid roads (safe routes to school) on rainy days. Ball games and soccer games on the same day will hasten the erosion.

    We have not discussed the bleachers. While a fairly small size, there is not anay reassurance trash will be cleaned up and mowing occur under them. I prefer not to attract more small animals, snakes and poison ivy.

  14. Personally, I can't see where having a little league field with concrete dugouts is advantageous to our little Woodbrook neighborhood. As stated above, this neighborhood has already been seeing an increase in crime and trash. It also seems there's been a desire by county planners to open another thoroughfare so more apartments can be built to our south. Then there's the development on 29 — more business and road noise to the west.

    If one reads meeting notes and the interview mentioned above, it is clear the people speaking for the foundation and the principal of the school have not been totally upfront and honest with our community.

    A concrete dugout will do nothing to improve the quality of life in Woodbrook; it will not decrease teen activity; it will not increase property values. I see no advantage for the community.

    A memorial to a small boy is a worthy cause, and if the foundation wishes it to be a ball field, perhaps it should be built where many people can use it and not encroach on a small neighborhood that is already being stressed by people and activities outside of the purview of woodbrook home owners.

  15. Well I am embarrassed by this whole ordeal. It is a youth baseball field! Think about this: There are tons of trailers up there for kids to graffiti, and believe it or not, there are places in between the trailers and behind trailers for kids to do drugs or have sex.

    We are talking about a man trying to honor his son with a great YOUTH baseball field that will provide us with a place to welcome visitors into our community, and where we can come together as a community.

    If we are really upset about crime and safety, why not begin a discussion of adding more streetlights, construction of sidewalks?

    This field is a plus to our neighborhood. What isn't a plus is the negative publicity this neighborhood is facing because of your alls small mindedness. Find something bigger and more substantial to fight about.

  16. Thanks for sharing your amazing blog. I finished this right now and thinking that it is the perfect blog I was looking for . Never stop writing, and keep up such an informative blogs. Best wishes for you.
    Stone Split Face

Comments are closed.