As I obviously have nothing better to do, I was just kind of wondering what a million dollars could get you in the way of grass. Quantities in poundage and square footage will obviously change as one alters one’s definition of the grass in question. I am, of course, talking about good old American turf grass here- the kind you can purchase by the roll or pallet so you don’t have to wait all that long before you can spend the rest of the growing season following the Lawnboy or ridin’ Johnny Deere till the cows, or more likely the kids, come home. One could surely go the seed route from the very beginning, and experience the wonders of planting, germination and growth- a far more rewarding experience than just spreading out a green, growing carpet and basking in the graminaeal glow of better living through chemistry and instant gratification. One could, on the other hand, use the arable space for vegetables or fruit or the proverbial cottage garden route of both ornamentation and edibility. Playing soccer in a cabbage patch, while perhaps offering obstacles and extreme exercises in ball handling and sauerkraut making, is at best ill-advised, and serves as at least one good reason, regardless of how ridiculous, for having dedicated athletic fields.
As one might guess, I have been having more conversations about fields of grass than I’d like to admit to these days, and while I am in favor of fields to play a variety of sports on, I would also choose to twist an old adage into something like this: the unquestioned field is not worth mowing. As with mowing, one could add or substitute the words watering and/or fertilizing here as well. A questioning would hopefully serve to assign a purpose to actions performed to alter, use and manage a space, and how far one should go to do that. To say that I believe we have gone way too far in all these regards concerning the VES field is an understatement- to say that I might have had a say in changing that if I had been involved earlier seems rather wishful at best and pointless to consider in the light of what has been said and done at VPD commissioners meetings of later. As was evidenced by a policy discussion at this last meeting, when confronted with a statement about existing policy, board member Bill Ameling stated: "…it’s up to us… you don’t have the vote….bang the gavel, Joe…." It was also Mr. Ameling who, in a moderately long soliloquy a while back (and available for viewing on Youtube) posed the blanket accusation to all in attendance that we were in some way responsible for not being there when the VES fields decision came down to perhaps voice opposition in order to rein the board in. As we have seen time and again though, the Board could give a rat’s ass about what the public says, and they can retain almost all the blame for where we are now- I say almost as some of us actually did vote for them, after all.
So what of the emerald wonderland that is the VES field? I decided to step onto the green carpet today to see what $1.7 million worth of "all that" is all about. The fences were open so I walked in, only to be greeted by a dispersed pack of cutout sheepdogs. I will not speculate as to why they are there. There is a paved sidewalk with bricks with donor’s names on them, although there are not very many. There are concrete stumps of incompleted stadium lighting. There are backstop poles barren of chainlink and a baseball field that is there in name only, as the grading is still to be completed, not to mention the grass that can’t begin to even grow until all of the needed prep work is done. And of course there is the grass. To judge the state of lawn grass in March is somewhat unfair- especially relatively newly grown grass. But in walking around a good portion of the field I remained unimpressed by what a $1.7 million lawn job had given us. The grass was clumped and spotty, with a fair amount of soggy thatch interspersed between the low growing tufts. For more laughs (and we certainly need them) I did the google thing on the price of sod and came up with a rough number of $1.25 per square yard. I don’t know if that was local- it doesn’t really matter for these purposes here. I roughly estimated the square footage of the grassed area on the fields from a rough plot map I have of the property and divided that by 9 and multiplied by a buck and a quarter. While it wouldn’t have given us all the sand and pipes and laser flatness and potential irrigation, $32,500 would have bought pretty much enough sod to redo the entire field in something that would look a whole lot better than what they have there now. The question is though, would it wind up looking just as bad not too far down the road if it had also been laid out on the sandy beach we have there now just below the turf line?
Another question that might rightly be asked is provoked by a statement made by an Island friend who works for the county and who offered to look into some of the water issues surrounding this project. In an email I received this morning he stated: "The fields are located in a critical recharge area and a sensitive aquifer area (probably together the highest level of protection). So if infiltration is one of the drainage strateg[ies] it will go counter to the purpose of this designation, but I don’t know if there is a mechanism to address that." Not knowing how to address things seems to be a constant state of disenchantment for me in all of this. I keep going to sources to see what I can find only to find that mechanisms to deal with things are often only toothless safeguards which are there to give the illusion of democratic control to a public who is best kept at bay and in the dark. So I decided to pull out the VPD set of guidelines to see what they had to say.
The VPD Mission Statement goes like this:
"The district seeks to provide recreational opportunities and facilities to its residents. This includes developing and preserving passive and active recreational resources for the betterment of all residents of the District as well as protecting the rural and natural qualities of Vashon Maury Island. The District will insure facilities and services remain within adopted standards and service levels."
One could say that we have gone badly astray from a fairly clearly stated mission with this VES fields project, both from what is visibly and economically evident, as well as in the light of what is put forward in this brief but important document. One could also say that we have been taken to this place by three Board members who would do the Island a favor if they were simply to resign so we can move forward from this place and attempt to salvage something from the wreckage they have left in their wake.