Council defers to commission on Fenway

Photos by Ryan Howard
The city of Forest Lake has begun executing work at Fenway Field 5 to get it up to safety and appearance standards after complaints about maintenance this summer, but one area not yet completed when The Forest Lake Times visited the site on Sept. 20 was the uneven and weedy infield grass line.

During a Sept. 18 work session, the Forest Lake City Council briefly discussed the field conditions at Fenway Park, but members ultimately said they wished to defer to the city’s Parks, Trails and Lakes Commission to make a recommendation. The commission met the following day and is expected to discuss Fenway again during its next meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 17.

During the Sept. 18 discussion, Forest Lake city staff rehashed for the council the work the city has been executing and contracting out at the fields in recent weeks, after a summer during which the Forest Lake Baseball Association and some turf experts called in by the city decried some of the field conditions as unsafe or unattractive, particularly at Fenway Field 5. Since Field 5 is the only field at the park that has 90 feet between bases, it was the FLBA’s primary playing field at Fenway, and the club opted not to play on the field during its fall season out of concerns that baseballs could take potentially dangerous “bad hops” off of uneven and divoted turf. Read more about the complaints some are making about the fields in the Sept. 14 story, “City scrutinizes Fenway maintenance.”

The Forest Lake Area Athletic Association is responsible for many of the maintenance items at the fields, in addition to its scheduling responsibilities there. The city is responsible for maintaining irrigation at the park (it is currently auditing the irrigation system). The city contracts with Blue Diamond Enterprises to maintain the irrigation system at the park; Blue Diamond is also one of the primary contractors hired to take care of maintenance by FLAAA.

The field’s warning track also still had grass and weeds growing in it.

Blue Diamond owner and FLAAA President Al Hauge did not attend the Sept. 18 meeting and did not return a request for comment from The Forest Lake Times.

City Administrator Aaron Parrish told the council that the partnership between FLAAA and the city at Fenway has been mostly positive but that the city has had to deal with “legitimate concerns” at the park as of late, which have included making minor landscape changes, properly fertilizing the fields and reseeding Field 5, which will leave the field unplayable until mid-May of next year.

Councilman Michael Freer said that he wanted the maintenance procedures reviewed, but not necessarily changed, as long as the city made sure that the fields do not deteriorate again. He agreed with Parrish that the city’s relationship with FLAAA has been positive overall.

“FLAAA is an outstanding organization,” he said. “[It’s] been an outstanding partnership, and will continue to be an outstanding partnership.

Councilman Ed Eigner believed an important step would be a clear elucidation of who is responsible for each task that needs to be done at Fenway, and Councilwoman Mara Bain urged the city to consider as it moves forward that FLAAA’s control over both scheduling and maintenance allows a coordination for maintenance work to be done while not interfering with games or practices.

“It’s very difficult to tie in maintenance with the scheduling,” she said.