Some want Flanders Field open

Keeping the ball field at Flanders Field open for public use during daylight hours was a main topic of discussion during a meeting of Marietta City Council’s lands, buildings and parks committee Tuesday afternoon.

Flanders Field, in the Harmar District, is a municipal park that includes the ball field, playground and restrooms. In 1986 the city recreation commission turned all ball fields over to the Marietta Softball Association which oversees maintenance of the fields, according to city recreation clerk Susan Joyce.

In 2012 the Little Sluggers team entered into an agreement with the softball association to lease the ball field at Flanders for $1 a year for five years in exchange for the Little Sluggers improving and maintaining the field.

“No one was using or taking care of those fields,” Joyce said in a November 2013 letter to 4th Ward Councilman Tom Vukovic.

She said the Little Sluggers volunteers made improvements that included new dugouts, fence restoration, and the restrooms were put back in operation.

Since then the ball field at Flanders has been locked up when ball games are not being played because the Little Sluggers have spent money and maintained it for their use.

But Vukovic said he’s had some complaints from Harmar area residents who believe the ball field should be open for other children to play on when ball games are not scheduled.

“I’m not saying the field should be left open 24 hours a day. It makes sense to lock it up at night,” Vukovic said Tuesday. “But children in that area should be able to use Flanders during the day when the Sluggers are not using it.”

He said the only way kids can currently get into the field is by climbing over the fence, and he’s concerned that someone could get hurt.

“The dugouts could be locked up when games are not being played,” Vukovic added. “I just want the field to be available for children to play on when it’s not being used for ball games.”

Jamie Thompson with the Little Sluggers noted there have been very few complaints about the ball field being locked up.

“People in the neighborhood have said they appreciate what we’ve done at the field and agree that we should lock up the field and the restrooms when we’re not playing ball,” he said.

Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, thanked the Sluggers for maintaining Flanders Field.

“And part of maintaining it is to protect that area from being vandalized,” he said.

Councilman Harley Noland, D-at large, who chairs the lands, buildings and parks committee, said he would reconvene the meeting and continue the discussion in two weeks.

In other business, city engineer Joe Tucker said he had met with local contractor Dan Harrison of Harrison Construction, about restoring the gazebo along the city’s River Trail on Ohio Street.

The deteriorating structure has been cordoned off from the public for months, and there are concerns that it could collapse and possibly injure someone walking or biking on the River Trail.

“Harrison gave me a proposal for temporarily bracing and securing the gazebo until it can be permanently repaired,” Tucker said, adding that the cost for the temporary repair would be around $2,780.

He said the gazebo would still have to be fenced off to prevent people from walking through the structure.

“I also received a second quote for the actual permanent repair from Harrison of $25,850 to jack up the structure, re-do the roofing tiles, and install new fiberglass-coated columns,” Tucker said.

He said the gazebo’s foundation and overall roof structure are in good shape.

“We’re mainly concerned about the support columns. Using fiberglass-coated columns could be expensive, but it would be the best way to repair the gazebo,” Tucker said. “But I would at least like to move ahead with having it braced and secured.”

In his proposal, Harrison said he was concerned that the entire structure could collapse if something is not done to secure the gazebo soon.

Noland recommended having the gazebo temporarily secured immediately.

“There are a number of people using the River Trail and pass close by that gazebo every day,” he said.