Dugouts: An Open Letter to Woodbrook Residents

Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter to all Woodbrook residents by Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed. In this letter Ms. Reed discusses many of the issues surrounding the construction of concrete block dugouts at Woodbrook Elementary School by the Carson Raymond Foundation. It is presented here in its entirety. There will be a public meeting on the issue at the County office building on July 8th.

I felt that I should write and let you all know some of the background on these dugouts as many of you don’t know the whole story. The Foundation first put an announcement on our blog and stated that they wanted to improve the baseball field. They mentioned a few things, among them “adding [a] bench or dug-out for seating“. It all sounded fairly innocuous and so we didn’t go to the meeting as it was a busy time. However, one Woodbrook resident went and became alarmed at the scope of the project they were discussing. On looking at the Carson Raymond Foundation website, we decided we had better get involved and so called Dr. Sterrett and inserted ourselves into the process. In our first meeting with Dr. Sterrett we were told that if the dugouts upset people, they would just take them off the table. That was the last time that offer was made! Now they won’t consider doing so.

“You’ve probably heard that we refuse to compromise.”

There have been many things that we were told that weren’t really true. On more than one occasion, we were told that the Foundation needed no further approval from anyone because it was just improvements to an existing ball field. We found out that wasn’t true; all things being built on a school facility require approval from the School Board. You have probably heard that we refuse to compromise. In reality, we offered a design for an open dugout that was immediately shot down. They are insisting on locks and the cinder block look. We asked if the stones could be in earth tones at least and were told that the stones only come in gray. We have found sources that do have them in other colors. The only compromises they were willing to make was to put fencing in the top half (which will also rust) and to cut the size of the dugouts by two feet.

“I am concerned about crime.”

I am concerned about crime. True, Woodbrook already has many places to hide. But police will tell you that one of the best deterrents to crime is to keep open areas. These dugouts are large. The picture you may have seen makes them appear to be the size of garden sheds, but they will be 18 feet long each. That is two structures almost as big as a two story building on its side. That’s also not to mention the nine trees and the bushes they intend on planting around the area. Much of our recent crime sprees have been in areas close to the school where it would be easier to dart in and out of the school yard. This would certainly facilitate hiding!

Another point that hasn’t been made is the fact that the Foundation will pay for the initial building; but all the upkeep, maintenance, and repairs will be the responsibility of the school.

“All the upkeep, maintenance, and repairs will be the responsibility of the school”

The Foundation wants to build and leave the upkeep to volunteers and the school. This is something that is primarily for non-school use (despite Dr. Sterrett’s assertion that they could be used for PE and he needed dugouts to “corral kindergartners”. This means that any graffiti removal (which is VERY expensive), repairs, trash clean up, maintenance, etc. would be paid for by the school. You can’t read the paper anymore without reading how the schools are hurting for money and will have to make big cuts. Is this a wise use of their funds? And what hope do we have of keeping the dugouts in good condition when the new track is already in disrepair? It would seem to me that it would be much easier to maintain a track (which is not being done) than it would be to mow under bleachers, clean graffiti off dugouts, etc. etc.

Property value is something else to consider. Twenty-three homes will have these dugouts in their backyard view. Woodbrook is the ONLY school where this would be the case as we are the ONLY county school that is completely surrounded by homes. It may be very hard to sell homes surrounding the school because of that. The view is one thing, but extra games, noise, parking on grass, trash, etc. will result. If that happens, property values in the whole neighborhood will go down. Not only would that not be good for the community, but it would not be good for the school either. I was recently getting my hair cut and someone mentioned the news they had seen about the dugouts. Everyone there was commenting how ugly they were and why on earth would they put those in Woodbrook? Mind you, these weren’t people I knew or who knew I was a Woodbrook resident. So it’s not far fetched to think a realtor might have a hard time selling “the lovely concrete dugout view”!

“We were to be the test case to see what worked and what doesn’t work.”

We have also been told several different things about the use of these dugouts. First we were told many times that the dugouts were strictly for practice. If that’s the case, they are unnecessary. Practices don’t last that long and t-ball age children (age 5-8) don’t need fancy dugouts. (If you give them everything at a young age, what’s left to hope for?). Then they started talking about games. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see them increasing activity there. Soccer is by far the more popular sport and they need the room as well. If you put these large structures in, you are limiting who else can use the field. You are also increasing traffic to the neighborhood, noise, people parking on the grass, trash left, etc. We were also told that we were to be the test case to see what worked and what doesn’t work. It would make far more sense to build these kind of dugouts at a free standing school where a neighborhood would not be so affected by all these issues.

When Woodbrook was built, schools were primarily for education. I say this not to denigrate the education at the school now; but to say that all the sports issues weren’t really considered when building. They didn’t envision so much activity going on when they surrounded the school with homes. I say again, we are the ONLY Albemarle county school that is completely surrounded by homes and it DOES make a difference.

I worry about liability and attractive nuisance issues. You can bet that kids are going to be climbing on dugouts. Heck, they climb on the roof of the school building and that’s a lot harder to do!

Woodbrook residents are not opposed to field improvements or to making a memorial to Carson Raymond. We are in a very sensitive situation: we realize that there has been unimaginable pain on the part of the Raymond family in the death of their son; however, we have to live in the neighborhood! Whatever gets built here will be here for MANY years.

“The size and scope of this is not appropriate for our neighborhood.”

If something ends up being a problem, we would take no pleasure in saying, “I told you so!” As I said, we are not opposed to having some sort of memorial here, but the size and scope of this is not appropriate for our neighborhood. We have to live here with whatever is built and with the consequences (intended or unintended) of said structure. As Mr. Spock would say, “It is not logical.” And these dugouts are certainly NOT logical for this neighborhood. Simple benches with some sort of memorial plaque would seem to be more fitting here. The neighborhood could also make use of such benches. There is no benefit to the neighborhood of having large locked structures that the community can’t use.

There are many drawbacks: the twenty-three homes with the very altered backyard view, the increased traffic, parking in the grass and in front of people’s driveways

“There are many drawbacks:”

(which occurs now, but would get worse with more people coming in), more trash, more potential hiding places for people up to no good, school funds going for maintenance, etc,etc. Why doesn’t the Carson Raymond Foundation consider fixing Lane field which was decimated in the recent microburst and has no idea how they’re going to fix it? That is the field that is used by Central Little League baseball. And how about baseball camp scholarships? Or put dugouts at a free standing school? The name of Carson Raymond can be spread elsewhere besides just at the school he attended for, sadly, too few years. Besides everything else, the percentage of kids in this neighborhood who play t-ball is very small so you’re asking for a lot of disruption to serve only a few. (And, again, if it’s just for practice it’s very unnecessary and if you’re throwing games in that’s a lot more going on than the Foundation kept insisting was going to happen!)

As I said before, we cannot imagine the pain the Raymond family feels and have no wish cause them further pain. But we live in Woodbrook and these are our homes and we have to consider what is best for us.

P.S. In case you are wondering, I had two girls who played softball and one son who was an avid t-ball and baseball player.

Thanks for your time and attention to this matter.

Susan Reed
Woodbrook Community Association

25 thoughts on “Dugouts: An Open Letter to Woodbrook Residents

  1. I live in Woodbrook but not next to the school. I am acquainted with the Raymonds and I am deeply sympathetic to them, as no doubt all of us are. Yet I don't understand their insistence on this dugout plan. Surely the point of the Carson Raymond Foundation is to honor Carson in a place he loved, and to promote healing? Certainly, it is NOT to divide the very neighborhood Carson went to school in and loved. Carson's field needs, without question or argument, sturdy benches, beautification, and track maintenance.
    P.S. I also agree that the Lane Field desperately needs to rebuild now; the CRF could help them out and many, many people throughout the city/county would be forever grateful!

  2. I understand the points about safety, but do we really want to add to the pain that this family has suffered? Carson wanted a better playing field at his own school. The foundation that bears his name was established to carry on his legacy and wishes. Money has been raised for this purpose and rather than being able to go forward with the construction, all is at a standstill. We are talking about children playing ball…

  3. At second poster: we're not talking about children playing ball, we're talking about permanent, unattractive and excessive structures being built at an elementary school surrounded by homes. That's very different. Children can play ball all they want without dugouts. Everyone has a threshold of what would be excessive construction at the field: if Carson had wanted flood lights, consessions, an outfield wall and bleachers more people would be opposed because none of those belong at Woodbrook. The proposed dugouts cross many neighbors' threshold of what is excessive. It is a completely valid stance and should be considered by the school board. The way I figure it, the only way the school board allows the dugouts is if they see money in the future from little league.

    I say put up some benches and move on to improving another field.

  4. Clearly this is not just about children playing ball, and I find it odd that someone living in Woodbrook who has read Ms. reed's letter said that. Potentially, this is about even more than safety–it also could be (and likely is) about property values in Woodbrook.

  5. I was wondering when the new elections are for the Woodbrook Community association are? NOT that they have any real power, but please people, lets show up and get them out of their positions! They do not represent me or many in the neighborhood that I have talked to.

  6. From Gerry Petencin on Woodbrook (I don't understand Select profile, seems to encourage anonymous)

    I'll admit I haven't been too concerned about this issue. I doubt that it (dugouts) hurts the neighborhood and I doubt that it makes it better. We can all understand wanting to honor and remember Carson, and there are many ways to continue his memorial.

    My "two cents": Has anybody asked the kids how they feel about dugouts? I can remember kids caring about gloves, balls, bats, and bases but I honestly don't remember any kid every saying, "Man, we need a dugout". Course I was growing up in a poor 'hood in Chicago, little league was for kids in the 'burbs.

    So, I honestly don't know. Seems like we'd be better served by "both sides" sitting down for a discussion, we are neighbors and friends, right? And we're all on the same side too: We'd rather see kids out playing ball than hooked up to Space-Book (My-Face?) on their computers. I'd rather chip in for a case of Bud to help that discussion along than do another one of those three minute speeches (that always leave me wishing we were having a back and forth discussion).

    Why not meet at the field where people (school board?) can actually see what's being talked about? Like I said, just my two cents.


  7. Gerry: There have been four meetings with the Foundation since last November. Unfortunately, the Foundation and neighbors were unable to reach an agreement. The meetings were civil and respectful of the views of both parties. The audio from meetings three and four is posted elsewhere on this blog.

    Your right about the "Select Profile" thing. That's a "feature" of blogging at Google that we can't change. We encourage folks to choose "Anonymous" then simply sign their comment at the end.

  8. Mrs Reed You need to STOP pretending to speak for "US". You do NOT share every one's view or opinion. How you can denigrate something that IMPROVES our little school that has taken so many negative hits in the past few years is beyond me. This is not an issue like the walking path. This is about the memory of a young boy and the people who have contributed a great deal of money to honor this boy AND improve a school. Who are you to tell them HOW to do this? Just because the school is in Woodbrook doesn't mean we own it. I say LET THE KIDS PLAY! Graffiti..really?????

  9. Gerry, if your house was right next to the field and your daughter was under 12, would you be more concerned about either safety or home values? Folks, are you honestly trying to put yourselves in the shoes of those living right beside the field? Could we hear from those who do? I think the idea of a friendly meeting at the field is great.

  10. To the person(s) speaking in such a hostile way to Ms. Reed above: Please stop using this blog in that way. I do not know Ms. Reed so I have no personal stake in defending her. I do appreciate her attempt to clarify this neighborhood issue for me, and I understand that she has her own point of view. I do not feel that she speaks for me but rather TO me about the proposed changes. I am against the proposed dugouts but I'm all for children playing!

  11. I think Mrs. Reed is doing a fantastic job! She, along with the Board, represent the views of the majority of the neighborhood. I have spoken with lots of neighbors and have only come across ONE that supports the dugouts. The online poll also indicates that the majority of the neighborhood is against the proposed dugouts.

    Dugouts or no dugouts, the kids can still play ball. No disrespect to the Foundation, but they do not have to live here.

  12. Thanks to Susan Reed for volunteering her time for our neighborhood. I appreciate all the updates and the information regarding dug-outs, crime, etc. in our neighborhood. I have mixed feelings on the issue of dug-outs. The cinder block plan does not bother me as much with the open design that I saw posted recently (where the cinderblock goes up half-way and chain link fencing fills the top half of dugout). However, I'm not sure why the open dugout plan presented by the Woodbrook Association has been shot down. Isn't the goal to have benches and provide some relief from the sun? It seems as though a compromise could be reached. One that improves the ball field yet at the same time does not detract from the property values of the neighboring homes. I think Susan makes some very valid points about who will be responsible for maintenance after any improvements are made. It light of the economic situation it would seem that a more simple design (such as the W.Association submitted) would be a better choice at this time.

    Miriam Nissley

  13. Mrs. Reed does not speak for most of the neighborhood, there are those that actually have lives and are living them..not concentrating on selfishness and fear..does anyone know when the next association meeting is?

  14. Ms. Reed does speak for me!! Ms. Moran have you taken a poll of the neighborhood? How do you know how many people she speaks for?

    Do you think because you're writing on a blog that you don't need to be civil and respectful. I can hardly believe you'd be saying this in someone's face. Actually I can hardly believe you're saying all this on a blog that your neighbors read. I'm glad you have a life and are living it — maybe you are too busy living to remember common courtesy.

  15. Susan Reed rocks. As someone who does public communication for a 9-5 job, I can tell you that it takes a lot of energy and personal commitment to keep up with the local events, county government actions, criminal complaints, etc. that Ms. Reed tracks, and then summarize it all for the benefit of the members of this community.

    With regard to the dugouts — why are these necessary again? As many others have said, surely the foundation could find a more suitable memorial, and not wreck anyone's backyards in the process. As property owners here, none of us should apologize for insisting first and foremost on preserving the values of our homes; they are the most important investments most of us possess.

    With regard to the anonymous poster who asked "Graffiti..really?????": Uh, *yeah*. Have you checked out the parking lot wall at Charlottesville High? How about the walls of Beta Bridge on Rugby Road? Not to mention the street signs and Art In Place installations that have been stenciled or tagged. And the last time I was at Hollymead an outbuilding there had been spray-painted. Wake up and smell the vandalism.

  16. All of us at The Carson Raymond Foundation appreciate the input and feedback we received from The Woodbrook Community Association. The open meetings were respectful and helped shape and improve our current dugout design.

    The core issue of why we want dugouts is simple; we want them for the children. As a baseball coach and former player in our community I know it means a lot to play on a field with “real” dugouts. Dugouts enhance the experience for children and provide shelter from the elements. They also provide security and help contain young players who are easily distracted and could wander away from the field.

    Our construction goal is to build high quality, low maintenance dugouts that will last many, many years. From the feedback we received we significantly reduced the size (length and height) of the original dugouts and eliminated the attached storage closets. We also re-designed the dugouts to be open on all sides to allow visibility. We changed from standard concrete block to split face block (which resembles stone on the exterior) to provide a better appearance. Lastly, we agreed to change the color of the standing seam metal roof and all trim boards to an earth tone.

    We understand there are different opinions on the field improvements but our primary aim is to enhance Woodbrook School and by doing so enhance the entire community. And just as important we hope the project will increase opportunities for children to “go play”.

    Thanks – Darren Lynch
    Carson Raymond Foundation

  17. I have lived in Woodbrook for 22 years and raised 3 sons here, all of which played Little League. We never had dugouts for t-ball and I do not think the boys knew the difference … they just enjoyed playing baseball. As far as I know, no child ever wandered away and got lost because there were no dugouts to contain them.

    The dugouts are not needed for school use and will not enhance our community, as locked bunker-like structures.

    While I applaud the efforts of the Foundation, I think there are other projects that could benefit from some financial aid, such as the recently devastated Lane Field, for example.

    Children (and especially those of t-ball age) do not need dugouts to "play ball".

  18. While I do respect the hard work of Mrs Reed
    We have always had graffiti on the playground..it's not a new thing. You are giving in to the "fear factor". No one would ever build anything if that was the case. In a day and age where our children are suffering obesity, anything that encourages physical activity should out-weigh worries of Grafitti.Not to mention supplying shade and protection from the heat.

  19. Sutherland any many other schools have dug outs and they are well-kept, enjoyed and appreciated by lots of kids. I walked up to the field today and anything that can be done to improve the ball field should be welcomed. It is in poor shape and is hot and exposed to the elements. My 2 boys also played ball there over the 13 yrs we've lived here and said they would have loved dug-outs and the shade they would provide. I personally think the school should decide since it is their grounds. I also think it would be a positive enhancement to our community. Too bad it's become such a controversy as there are many more important issues that need to be addressed like the upkeep of homes, yards & streets that are affecting our property values.

  20. I agree that we should encourage physical activity for our children. So why provide shaded dugouts for them to sit around in? They should be up and about and playing baseball instead!

    The only connection the dugouts have with Woodbrook school is that they would be on school property. I am not sure how they would be useful during school hours.

    Interesting that in the post above it was mentioned that the field is in poor shape. The Foundation just fixed this very field a few months ago with new dirt and backstop and fencing. And we appreciate that!

    All it needs now are a few benches, and the Foundation could move on to its next project. And that would end the controversy here.

  21. Wow. This is truly, truly amazing. I cannot understand how some of you have spent so much time and effort opposing improvements to a field for children to play. Yeah, I guess the kids could just play with benches, but the foundation is trying to build a nice field, and if you look around the nice fields have dugouts. I think we all know the dugouts = crime and destruction of our community argument is implausible and ridiculous.

    Take just a moment and think. What are you so angry about? It isn't little league dugouts. Why are you fighting this? What are you really fighting? Maybe it's time to step back and address that issue that makes you so angry and leave the rest of the world to move forward in tiny harmless ways like improving a field with real dugouts.

  22. Thanks to all the attendees at last nights meeting! Now we can all put the controversy to rest and perhaps concentrate on more important issues such as: We all appreciate the volunteer efforts of the WCA, however,it is not a legal Home Owners Association. There are no by-laws, no covenants and no restrictions. Participation is voluntary. It is a great vehicle to support
    good-will and the exchange of information, and yes the once a year picnic. But on issues that effect us all, each one of us has our own voice and deserves to be heard. This is a great place to live and we should be proud of that. Can we all concentrate on the upkeep and appearance of Woodbrook? This is what is negatively effecting our property values.Please show some pride of ownership in your homes by sprucing up your home, yards, and streets. And PLEASE Drive Slowly; Watch for Children playing!

  23. Anonymous: The Woodbrook Community Association was formed in the fall of 1972 by a two-thirds majority vote of neighbors. It has a constitution that sets out its bylaws which authorize it to represent the interests of its members.

    The current directors have always respected the view of everyone in Woodbrook. Their official publications (flyers) have never pushed an agenda for either side. You may have noticed last evening that Ms. Reed spoke as a neighbor and not as president of the association.

  24. Well Mr Gould, if the "Association" has a constitution and by-laws, it has stayed hidden from many of us long time residents! It is also not registered with the State of VA, which governs all HOAs. Yes, Mrs Reed spoke as a resident..much appreciated.

  25. Anonymous: The WCA is not an HOA. It's a community association and is therefore not registered as an HOA.

    It's normally the responsibility of the WCA president to maintain the association's documents.

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