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Waterlogged fields put a damper on season starts

All the rain earlier in the month may have been good for the grass, but not for those teams waiting to play on it, as sports fields in Wellesley and Woolwich are only now becoming usable.

The wet conditions made the turf unusable and, even when the rain stopped, delayed attempts to get equipment out on the fields to prepare them for soccer and baseball teams.

Brad Voisin, Wellesley’s director of recreation, said although this isn’t the worst year they have had, the rain put an end to use of the fields that began earlier in the spring.

“We had the sports fields all ready to go to let the kids get out and start practicing, and then we got all of that rain and they just got so soft we couldn’t keep equipment on them – we would have just damaged them if we had of let people on,” said Voisin of the conditions early in May.

In April and May of 2016, the area received 124.6 mm of rainfall. This year, the region saw 183.4mm of rainfall within April and the first week of May alone.

Drier conditions had most of the fields in the township ready this week.

“We just needed a dry spell and we are good to go,” said Voisin. “We have one diamond in Wellesley that will open at the end of next week. We are putting up some new light standards and we weren’t able to get a crane on the diamond.”

That work was expected to be completed this week, however.

Delays were also the order of the day in Woolwich. Ann McArthur, the township’s director of recreation and facilities, says soccer and ball teams lost approximately 120 hours of play and practice times in the first two weeks of May, with soccer having to cancel all scheduled events and ball teams losing around nine days of playing time.

Soccer pitches and ball diamonds at Lions Park on Barnswallow Drive in Elmira, painted and prepped after a much-needed dry patch following the rain that delayed the opening of area sports fields. [Ali Wilson / The Observer]

“Unfortunately the rain has impacted all of the township’s sports field. All fields were closed from May 1-8,” said McArthur.

Fields in Woolwich are now slowly being opened as officials are waiting for turf to dry and staff to get on the field with equipment.

“It is always a difficult and very quick transition from winter to spring sports dependant on how much snow is received, how quickly it melts and how the extent of warm weather to dry the fields. I would suggest that the extent of the wet weather this spring was greater than most years and has delayed our operations. Often a field looks ready to play on but the moisture limits access to fields with equipment required to do maintenance.”

McArthur said which has set maintenance and turf contractor were delayed about two weeks.

“Staff are certainly working diligently to get all of the township’s parks, trails and sports fields ready for use and are hopeful with a few more days of sun and warmer temperatures all of the fields will be open early next week. The department sincerely appreciates the community’s patience. As many know, use of a field before they are dry or during inclement weather can cause damage to sports fields that may result in additional temporary closings,” she said.

Perhaps the best way to mitigate the impact of wet weather would be to add an artificial turf field into the mix in Woolwich, McArthur suggested. That could provide a play surface available from February well into November.

“We don’t have much control over Mother Nature, so staff prepare to mitigate against the impact of rain to the best of their ability with a solid work plan which would concentrate getting fields on line that typically aren’t impacted as much with copious amounts of rain. A turf field in the township would certainly assist teams to start practicing much earlier in the season and extend their seasons well into the fall,” said McArthur.

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