We need your quick feedback about our playing fields! Please take our quick survey, as we need to finalize our field locations for the summer season. If you’ve got a few minutes, please read the following background too…but if not, take the survey anyway.
Why are we asking?
As you are probably aware, playing wiffleball at Gravelly Point has been both a blessing and a curse for the league since we returned in 2010.
There is certainly no more scenic place to play, and there are always plenty of spectators wondering what we’re doing. Game videos feature the Capitol, and Washington Monument. And the planes are fun.
On the con side, there is the wind, the parking, the portajohns, the non-maintained fields, the mowing 12 times a year, the airport beacon radar interference, and the National Park Service themselves.
Earlier this year, the Park Service altered our permit to not allow anything to be inserted into the ground. Gravelly, which is not historic property, but rather a landfill dumping ground from past area excavations, is apparently too precious to allow the insertion of bases, fence poles, or stakes. We’re pretty sure even in Yellowstone you can stake your tent into the ground.
We ignored this permit provision for the Spring Season, but the NPS is insistent on it moving forward, and will be sending a monitor to our games each week to ensure we comply with this provision. They will also be enforcing a provision that doesn’t allow us to “alter the grass”, something they refer to as “landscaping” which we generally call actually mowing the grass. Meaning some weeks, the grass will be 6-8 inches long, and we won’t be able to alter it, or claim that aliens did it making a crop circle.
That leaves us needing to dramatically alter our setup, or to find a new place to play.
While we are confident we could buy replacement fences that stand up on their own, and don’t need to go in the ground. We could switch to the throw down rubber bases, and a pitching rubber that doesn’t go into the ground. And we could change strike board to stand up on its own. These things are all possible, and would likely necessitate upgrading the uhaul cargo van to an even larger vehicle. Neither is the acquisition cost of this new equipment reasonable, or the added cost to store, transport, and set it up weekly.
Since the NPS informed us of the “don’t hurt the dirt” rule enforcement, Commissioner-Election Hudson and Commissioner Gallaway have been looking for other fields. Not only for the short term for this summer season, but to have a long term, permanent home, where we can build fences, and leave fields setup all the time, not just for 6 hours on a Sunday.
In DC, land is a premium. If we were in Columbus, OH, or Dwight, KS, we’d have already built wiffleball stadiums that rival MLB parks. But alas, that’s not where we live, or want to live.
We’ve been looking for partners, either governments, or private parties, who might be willing to share our crazy wiffleball dream. We’ve gotten more aggressive in this search as my retirement looms, and as Gravelly has increasingly become problematic. If you want to read the proposal we sent out to all the local governments and several private partners, you can here
While we have several leads, and hope that we’ll find a local Parks and Rec director who’s just a little bit crazy and wants to work with us, that’s obviously a solution for 2016, and not for this Summer.
For this summer, we are likely in a similar position we’ve been in the last 20 seasons. Just being a tenant, and getting a field permit assigned to us. While there are a few jurisdictions that are willing to work with us on this, doing this season with a partner who wants to work with us long term is obviously preferred.
During the Spring Season, we began conversations with the non-profit Fairfax Adult Softball. They run adult softball leagues in Fairfax County. In addition to already having permitted control of lots of fields, their own field maintenance crew, and a deep relationship in working with Fairfax County Parks, they are looking to expand their sports offerings to wiffleball. They plan to offer winter indoor wiffleball, and weeknight wiffleball leagues starting next year to grow their base of sports.
They have approached us to partner with them for this Summer season, and potentially for the long term. They’re willing to provide us a field to use, and also promote the league to their players.
Though these conversations, we’ve also become aware that Fairfax County Parks is interested in having leagues “adopt” a field. In these arrangements they are willing to give control of a field to a league as long as they agree to maintain it, mow the grass, clean up the trash, etc. While there are lots of conversations that would need to be had before we adopted a field, and broke ground building permanent fences (with or without green monsters) the potential of this partnership is an amazing opportunity, and almost exactly what we were proposing in our “Field of Dreams” memo.
Over the next few months, we are going to continue to meet with several other jurisdictions that have expressed some interest. Alexandria, Prince Georges County, Gaithersburg. We hope there will be more. And that by early next year, we’ll have a strong partnership with an entity that will let us build the fields we want and maintain them the way we want.
In the short term though, we have to decide what we’re doing when our season starts in 2 weeks.
Both Hudson and Gallaway believe, that while the distance it a little farther away from Gravelly than we’d like to be, that doing a summer partnership with Fairfax Adult Softball is the way to go. They’ll give us use of Ossian Hall Park. (Shockingly, Fairfax mows this park 2-3 times a WEEK…rather than 12 times a year like Gravelly is mowed.)
Ossian Hall Park
7830 Heritage Dr
Annandale VA 22003
While we are still having conversations with several governments, we would be very surprised if an opportunity as good as this one presents itself to us in time for our summer season. We’re planning to make a final decision on Wednesday, August 5th.
We wanted to get your feedback before then about this situation. We have created a brief survey about our playing fields, and would like to ask you to give us your feedback SOON. The sooner the better.
Thanks for your time and your feedback. And for continuing to help make the PWL a success.