A little grass could go a long way.
That was the philosophy behind the Menlo Park Parks and Recreation Commission's 4-0 vote on July 16 to move ahead with plans to fill most of the Burgess Park dirt baseball diamond with grass to accommodate a bigger, adult-sized soccer field at the park. Three commissioners were absent from the meeting.
Commissioners said filling the infield with grass -- estimated to cost $211,000 -- was the quickest and least expensive way to maximize field space at the park, and give the city a much-needed adult-sized soccer field. The commission recommended the City Council approve the plan at a future meeting.
Baseball would still be played at the field, and the first- and third-base paths would remain dirt. This change would not affect the adjacent Little League diamond.
"This is the cheapest most efficient plan to build a full-sized field that's come up in this city so far," said Commissioner Paula Maurano.
Sports groups have repeatedly urged the city to build adult-sized soccer fields to accommodate the growing number of teenagers in local soccer groups. Larger fields are also often broken up into smaller fields to accommodate more teams.
"There's not enough space [in Menlo Park for our kids to play soccer," said Steve Ellingson, president of the Mid-Peninsula Strikers Soccer Club, at the parks commission meeting. "I would love to see a project like this maximize the field space."
None of the commissioners doubted the city's need for additional field space, but Commissioner Kristi Breisch said she was "frustrated" that the city is spending time and money to reconfigure fields that underwent multi-million dollar renovations in 2004.
"I'd question why this wasn't thought of [in 2004," Ms. Breisch said.
Ruben Nino, the city's acting public works director, said when the park was remodeled, soccer groups were open to to a portion of the soccer field stretching on to the dirt baseball infield. But once the fields were finished, the soccer groups reversed that stance, and opted to use a smaller, field space at the park.
No lights or turf
The commission did not support installing lights or artificial turf at the park, and neither did the handful of neighbors who attended the meeting.
"We were repeatedly told that these fields would never have night lights installed," said Megan Gutelius, representing the Burgess Homeowner's Association. Other neighbors stressed that the park should be a place to walk and enjoy open space -- not a sports complex.