Soccer fields among improvements at Ragle Park
WESCO United wants to make the fields safer and more playable
The soccer fields at Ragle Ranch Regional Park in Sebastopol have been in awful shape for years. The main culprit behind the mounds and holes is a well-known feature of West County.
Gophers wreak havoc on the grass fields at Ragle, which are used for youth soccer by WESCO United, our local soccer club. Last October, I wrote WESCO United President Bodhi Nadler and asked him what he thought of the condition of the fields. He responded bluntly: “In a word, I think the condition of the soccer fields at Ragle is ‘unsafe’. The coaches and the entire league are concerned for the safety of the players and referees who run all over those fields in the name of the beautiful game.”
Marshall Vincent joined the WESCO board about five years ago. He is a general contractor who was coaching his two sons in soccer when he was asked to join the Board. He decided to focus on improving the fields at Ragle. “Parents always complain about the fields,” said Vincent. “The gophers are a huge issue. We have tried trapping them, but then weasels appeared in the fields so we stopped trapping, not wanting to catch weasels.” He said he’d lay awake at night, worried by the letters he’d read complaining about the condition of the fields.
He said the club and its all-volunteer staff tried doing everything it could. One year, they hired a local landscaper for $20K to bring in 125 yards of soil and spread it across the fields, adding about one inch on top. “It worked for about two weeks before the gophers took over again,” said Vincent. “They were happy to dig up the new soil.” In subsequent years, they brought in 40-80 yards of soil for the soccer season, all temporary solutions.
Going back five years ago, Vincent raised the issue with the Sonoma County Regional Parks department but found it difficult to navigate the bureaucracy. Then Measure M passed in 2018, which was a countywide sales tax that provided new funding to the county parks.
David Robinson is Park Director for Sonoma County Regional Parks. He told me that $130K of Measure M funds have been allocated to Ragle Park over the last two years. $50K went to the new volleyball court; $20K went to the picnic area. He had $50K for improving the soccer fields. They decided to choose Field 1 for the project because it is the largest field and also the one in the worst condition. It also had the best sprinkler system. Robinson also plans to upgrade the irrigation systems on Fields 2 and 3.
The start of the work to improve Field 1 at Ragle Park was delayed by the pandemic and the drought. “We wanted to put in the new field without having to irrigate it,” said Robinson. About two weeks ago, ground was finally broken on Field 1 at Ragle, in part because of the rain in September and October.
The field was stripped of its remaining grass, raked and compacted. “We were able to use the existing top soil and grass and re-distribute it,” said Vincent. They are also leveling the field. “One end of the field was one and a half feet higher than the other side.” A 50,000 pound bulldozer was used to grade and compact the field. Today, a tractor pulling a rake was going over the field.
The work is being done by Jason and Cole of the Park staff, and having the Park do the work reduces the cost of the project overall, according to Vincent. Once the grading is done, which includes defining a crown down the center of the field, they will lay down gopher wire before adding 3-6 inches of soil on top. Then sod will be put down.
The total cost of the project is $100K, split between the Park and WESCO, which has an ongoing capital campaign to raise money for this project. Robinson has told WESCO that he plans to schedule a new field for improvement every other year. If WESCO is able to raise additional funds, perhaps the work could be done sooner. (Please consider supporting these efforts.)
Robinson and Vincent have worked closely to make this project happen. “So far, it’s gone smoothly,” said Vincent. “I can’t say enough about David and the Parks Department as well as Christine Rue who manages the staff.”
Vincent said that WESCO Board is already talking about how youth teams from 6 and under to 17 and under might use the field in the spring. “The older players will play on the full length field but the younger players can play crosswise using portable goals,” said Vincent.
Through WESCO’s partnership with the Ragle Regional Parks, the main goal has been, according to WESCO President Nadler, “to get these fields back to being playable as soon as possible.”
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