A joyrider’s fun at Community Park has forced several South Whidbey athletic teams to practice elsewhere and rankled facility officials.
The incident occurred shortly after school let out Wednesday on the complex’s upper field, which is located east of the baseball fields and is surrounded by trees. An unknown person drove onto the grass and did several “donuts” before leaving the area, according to a frustrated Doug Coutts, director of the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District.
“You want these fields available for the public to use and when somebody does something like this, it makes usage difficult and impacts all of us,” Coutts said. “It’s frustrating to put it lightly.”
Wednesday was a half day for the high school, and the event happened within five to 10 minutes after the bell rang. Officials suspect a student is the likely culprit. High school staff and the Island County Sheriff’s Office are currently looking into the situation. Anyone caught could face vandalism and possibly felony charges; it’s dependent on financial damage, which is still being determined.
On a visit to the field Wednesday afternoon, a Record reporter observed turf that wasn’t overly torn up but was marked with deep tracks and ruts. District officials said repairs required the closure of the area. It also forced the Falcons football team to pack up and move to a new practice field adjacent to Waterman’s Field. Head coach Michael Coe said the alternative field is in rough shape, that it’s “nowhere near the upper field.” He says the surface is uneven and grass is up to or past ankle level.
South Whidbey Youth Football Association also utilized the damaged upper field and will need to look elsewhere to practice.
Tom Fallon, grounds supervisor for the parks district, said donuts in district and school fields are nothing new, but that he hasn’t seen damage to this extent in years. Fallon said the recent rainfall made matters worse, and pointed out the driver was aggressive. Sod was cut and folded over and tire tracks spanned the field.
“It’s been five or six years since we’ve had a good one like this,” Fallon said. “It’s not the best start to the school year.”
He said vandalism like this regularly occurs during the first and last month of school.
Fallon said it’s unclear how long it’ll be before the field is ready to use once again. He says he still has to fully examine the extent of the damage before determining how to repair it. He said the timeline depends on whether staff can piece the field back together or have to reseed the field, which would take longer. He’s hoping the football teams can have their field back in “a couple of weeks.”
The damage comes as the Falcons’ football season launches into full swing. Coe said moving practice fields could have an adverse impact on the team’s preparations, but that it will work with what it has.
“We try to preach to the kids that adversity is going to happen,” Coe said. “It is what it is. We’re just going to have to continue to move forward. The kids ended up practicing really well yesterday.”