“Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids.” Hits A Home Run With Oregon Project

Call it an extreme makeover but call it a vast improvement.

The athletic and recreation fields at Walker Elementary School in Ashland, Oregon had struck out long ago when it came to providing a safe, attractive location to hold a ballgame. The fields were unused and not safe for children to use.

That isn’t the case anymore after Project EverGreen and its “Healthy Turf. Healthy Kids.” initiative stepped up to the plate and hit a home run.
The school’s athletic fields received an extensive renovation and revitalization in the fall of 2016 courtesy of Project EverGreen and the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance, along with volunteers from the Southern Oregon Landscape Association, Ashland (Oregon) School District and the Ashland Little League.

Volunteers, including Little League players who are chasing down fly balls on the new turf this season, pitched in to help improve the fields’ playability and increase player safety. The project covered more than 139,000 sq. ft. of turf and started with cleaning up the debris from the playing surface.

The playing fields at Walker Elementary before the HTHK renovation project.

This was followed by weed removal and application of weed control products, soil aeration by volunteers from the Southern Oregon Landscape Association, and overseeding with more than 2,000 lbs. of drought tolerant seed and top-dressing donated by the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance.

Dave Sommer, head of maintenance for Ashland School District, said the fields now receive consistent usage and that brings a smile to his face and others in the community as well.

“I see people out here using them all the time on the weekends and the school can have their kids come over here for PE and recess again,” adds Sommer. “It’s great to see what a difference we could make here.”

The maintenance staff at Walker Elementary has incorporated ongoing, sustainable water-smart irrigation practices, core aeration, turf fertility and overseeding initiatives to keep the fields healthy.

The renovated fields at Walker Elementary this spring.

“It is a night and day difference for the playing surfaces at Walker Elementary School and for the teams of the Ashland Little League,” says Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “Investments in renovating and revitalizing athletic and recreational green spaces must be done to ensure these areas are available for children and the greater community to enjoy and benefit from.”

Managed green spaces that include healthy grass, plants and trees results in better park use, increased safety and the creation of a community hub for long-time neighbors, their grandchildren and the next generation moving into the neighborhood. Additionally, the grass, plants and trees will clean the air, sequester carbon and provide oxygen. This truly is a win-win situation.

Sommer also noted how the improvements in the field have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the community.

“The parks and recreation department came out and built up the pitcher’s mound and the city received a grant to extend the backstop and fences, put in covered dugouts and possibly even a back fence,” said Sommers.
It’s not all good news though, as Sommer notes, with a chuckle, “We’ve been finding a lot of fouled balls in our shop yard, which is something that never happened before.”

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