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MD country eyeing renovations to 200 fields

Caitlynn Peetz, reporting on bethesdamagazine.com, says “More than 200 county fields, many at public schools, are expected to get maintenance upgrades in the coming years. At a joint meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board and county board of education this month, Parks Director Mike Riley said the County Council has directed his department to create a “more aggressive plan” to “take the rest of these fields into our fold.”

The county Parks Department will identify revenue
sources, renovation plans and devise a plan to undertake and maintain 232
additional fields, many at county school sites, to add to its roughly 100
fields.

“The majority of the council members are very
e-engaged and excited about improving public fields, not just for the leagues,
but for school kids, athletes and community users,” Riley said. “We will
radically improve these fields.”

The county has spent more than $1 million over
the past three years to renovate fields at 14 sites, and has dedicated $250,000
to undertake five more next year. A cost estimate for maintaining the remaining
232 fields was not disclosed.

School system leaders said county staff are more
knowledgeable about how to maintain grass fields and have better equipment, but
the school system will continue to maintain most artificial turf fields,
located at nine schools.

Each field that undergoes revitalization will be
closed for a “short” period, school system Chief Operating Officer Andrew
Zuckerman said. If the fields aren’t closed, county staff wouldn’t be able to
adequately prepare fields for long-term, efficient use, he said.

“If we want to get this right, they have to be
closed for a while,” Zuckerman said. “We have to set them up for success.”

Each field the Parks Department inherits
undergoes extensive renovations, including soil, fencing and drainage
enhancements, according to the department’s Athletic Fields Program Manager
Cliff Driver. The work is scheduled to coincide with school system holiday
breaks, he said.

Then, each field has a separate maintenance plan
that includes weekly mowing, chalking and inspections, monthly grading and
other annual work.

School and planning staff said they are also
considering collaborating on how to “make the most” of small playgrounds at
county schools that don’t have access to large fields.