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.
Woodbrook Community Association