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Thursday, January 24 , 2019, 3:18 am | Fair 42º


Ron Fink: Lompoc Girls Softball Association Hits Homerun With Park Rehab

The Lompoc parks system is in dire need of a total overhaul; I highlighted some of the issues in a commentary back in January 2015 when I said “It’s time to stop just mowing the grass and get creative,” but not much has happened since then.

Prior to the 2015 commentary, one little league field was overhauled, but there are still several others in serious need of some tender love and care.

Thompson Park, located at College Avenue and R Street, is one of the older venues in town and was built to serve multiple purposes; one was as a ball field, another as a community gathering place with picnic tables and public barbecues and still another as a place where children could play outdoors on play equipment that was too big for their back yards.

The park’s neighborhood was developed over 50 years ago, and I am guessing that’s about when the park was installed.

The conditions of the playing field at Thompson Park have deteriorated over time and are less than optimal; the infield is well worn, the grassy areas have been in use for decades, and of course gophers seem to enjoy the field as much as the players do. There are also concrete walkways that interfere with players.

So what do you do when the city is strapped for General Fund monies and the community has needs? Well, in this case a partnership was formed between the teams who use the field and city government to fix the problem.

Often it is the gentle nudging of a female that is needed to set the right tone for a difficult project, both at home and in the community.

The Lompoc Girls Softball Association fields 24 teams of T-ball leagues and more advanced team play, and they are very familiar with the playing conditions on the field. The LGSA has 16 sponsors including construction companies, trucking companies and landscapers, so they decided to take direct action to help their sport.

Half of the LGSA board of directors are male, however, almost all of the senior leadership positions are occupied by women.

Girls and women’s sport teams are an important element in the community. They allow young and more mature girls to work as a team for a common goal, demonstrate the importance of doing your part for the team and provide a wholesome, outdoor, physical activity — free of electronic devices — for scores of players. This is the heart and soul of our community.

The city has appropriated $209,648 from Park Improvement Development Impact Fees for materials and permits, and the LGSA with their partner Granite Construction agreed to provide the volunteer labor needed during the six to eight weeks to complete the upgrades. I am sure that many of their sponsors will be contributing to this effort as well.

In fact, if you look carefully you’ll probably see some off-duty city employees who will volunteer their time too, since their families play on these teams too.

This isn’t some half-baked attempt to plant new grass, this is a total renovation from the dirt up, starting with the removal of turf, sidewalks and fencing. Then soil will be tilled and compacted, the field will be laser leveled, new irrigation systems and stainless steel gopher wire will be installed, and finally new turf put down.

Then new fences will be installed, a brick dust infield and crushed granite pathways, mow strips and warning tracks will complete the project.

Now the women of Lompoc, in cooperation with the city, will have transformed a well-worn park into a modern facility for local team play and regional tournaments.

The improved park could be a big shot in the arm for our local economy, since players traveling from other places will need a spot to eat and maybe even a place to stay overnight. What a way to showcase our community to visitors!

Now the challenge is out. The women of the Lompoc Girls Softball Association have shown us what they can do. Will other sports teams and service groups pick a park to rehabilitate or will this be the last effort by the community to improve existing park venues?

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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