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Monte baseball, softball fields will be locked for now

MONTESANO — The Montesano City Council gave temporary permission to add locks to its little league, softball and baseball fields , noting that the issue will be re-visited during their next meeting.

Associations representing parents and players lobbied the council Tuesday night to lock the gates on Vessey Field, Crait Field and Nelson Field, citing an increase in dog feces on the fields and damage caused by those who used the fields for activities other than softball and baseball. Mike Bruner, the former city parks director and the Montesano High School baseball coach, submitted a letter to the city saying the current condition of the fields presents a safety and health concern.

“What is so discouraging about this is that we find these conditions, many times, after spending the days before cleaning the grounds, manicuring the infield and getting it ready to host an opponent the next day,” Bruner told the city. “So, while our opponent is warming up and preparing to compete against us, we are re-raking and grooming the infield; filling holes; and more commonly scooping up dog poop. In fact, an opposing high school coach, who’s players had stepped in dog poop directly in front of the visiting dugout, actually questioned whether it had been left there on purpose.”

At one point last year, Bruner says, “We found a used hypodermic needle in the visiting dugout. And after phoning the police station two different times, one of our coaches finally disposed of it days after it had been discovered.”

In recent months, the Montesano Girls Softball Association had been especially critical that the city wouldn’t lock the gates and threatened to withhold placing artificial turf on city-owned Crait Field as a result.

Joanne Ambrose of Montesano told council members that if they don’t lock the gates, then they aren’t showing any concern for the kids and they “might as well line up all these girls and slap them in the face” because that’s essentially what council inaction would amount to.

Nelson Field used to be locked, but the city stopped locking it this past fall for reasons that still aren’t clear, the user groups said.

On a 6-1 vote, the council approved locking the gates just for the next two weeks on all three fields.

Councilman Ken Walkington said that the permission was being granted so that those who might want access to the areas and don’t play baseball will be able to tell the mayor and councilman before the next council meeting. Walkington said it was important to gather more public input on the issue.

The next council meeting has been set for 7 p.m., March 11 at Montesano City Hall.