Wallingford Playfield Update


Curious what’s been going on at Wallingford Playfield. Colleen Hacket, the Parks Operations Crew Chief dropped us a line with this tidbit:

Hello, I am the maintenance supervisor for Seattle Parks and Recreation at Wallingford Playfield.  Last year Wallyhood ran a story on Wallingford Playfield field renovations and also discussed the heavy (and illegal) off-leash use here.  I want to let the community know that we just completed a turf renovation at Wallingford Playfield again this year.

The whole field was aerated, top-dressed with sand, and seeded.   We have hydro-seeded and fertilized the two most damaged areas, and fenced those off for additional protection.  This fence will stay in place till May or June to give turf a chance to recover. We will reopen it in late spring and keep it open through the fall soccer season.

We get a lot of reports of illegal off-leash dogs in this park and we see the damage they do. We have 14 off-leash areas.  If you see violators, please report them: call the Animal Shelter at 206-386-7387 ext 7.  Please help this heavily-used and much-loved park to recover.  If you have any please feel free to call me at 206-233-3971.

(Photo by Jeffrey Linn)

  1. Anne Leache said,

    I don’t think it is the dogs doing the damage – it is the soccer games every weekend. And no, I am not saying get rid of the children.

    Tue, February 11 at 11:07 am
  2. Julie Ziegler said,

    I have kids who have used the field and agree that it is cleats more than dogs… Not sure there is a way around this, as soccer for kids is important and can understand that people would rather have their dogs play on grass than stinky mud and wood chips in the Greenlake off-leash area…

    Tue, February 11 at 11:36 am
  3. Jon Berkedal said,

    Although I do agree that dogs should be kept leashed in this park, mainly because it is frequented by small children, I also do not believe that it is the dogs who damage the turf. I am in Mathews beach park every day on my bike. It has tons of dogs running around all year, and no damage. In fact, turf professionals will tell you to wear golf shoes when mowing your lawn as this aerates the soil. Ten dogs running across the turf leave no visible evidence that they were ever there. One person walking across the same space with soccer shoes leaves evidence. I agree with Anne. That said, I believe the real problem here is not the turf but the drainage. This field is almost always damp. I believe that the city has already put a lot of money into trying to resolve this issue in a valiant effort to try to get it to dry out. Others who have lived here longer than I (30+years) may remember that there has been speculation that there may be a creek flowing under the field. Wallingford is full of them as evidenced by standing water in the streets in multiple locations when it has not rained in weeks in the summer (north side of John Stanford school, 2nd and 43rd, etc.), most recently, ice build up in the street when the temperatures got below freezing at night before the snow. I wish I had a solution, but sometimes, despite our best efforts, nature wins.

    Tue, February 11 at 12:11 pm
  4. Fred Slater said,

    The discussion is perennial, so I took progressive photos througout the summer and fall. I’ll get them posted at some point. The damage is usually done after a day or 2 of heavy rain, on a Saturday when a soccer tournament is held. When it’s dry, the field stands up to all of it: soccer, utlimate frisbee, dogs, July 4, etc. Colleen’s crew does a fantastic repair job every year, which is great, but a brief conference with the soccer league and an agreement about how much rainfall should cancel a game day would eliminate the need for the annual wholesale re-grassing.

    Tue, February 11 at 1:12 pm
  5. Anne Phillips said,

    I remember the rainy weekend when the damage happened. If soccer games happen in the rain, the field is going to need to be restored every year. If P and R simply asked the soccer league not to play on rainy days or to move the season 2 weeks earlier with a summer start this wouldn’t be necessary. I don’t have a dog, but I am near these fields daily and can tell you it is not the dogs doing the damage.

    Tue, February 11 at 1:18 pm
  6. jude said,

    You should take a look at Meridian Park where soccer and extreme frisbee take place regularly. The whole field is torn up and dogs are the least of its problems. Farmers Market is a great event, but very hard on the grass.

    Tue, February 11 at 1:57 pm
  7. Philip Beber said,

    The article doesn’t actually say that the turf damage is caused by dogs. I would be interested to hear clarification from Colleen on that point.

    Tue, February 11 at 3:53 pm
  8. Neighbor2You said,

    Yeah, I think the original post is a bit confusing. I read it as combining two points: noting that dogs contribute to the turf damage (though as others have posted, less than soccer cleats), but also emphasizing that since it’s not an off-leash area, running one’s dog off-leash in that area is a violation of the City ordinance. At least I think that’s what the maintenance supervisor is attempting to get across.
    In any case, I’m looking forward to the renewal of the playfield!

    Wed, February 12 at 7:13 am
  9. Donn said,

    Not all that confusing, is it? They spent a lot of our money, fixing up the field; due at least in part to damage from illegal off-leash dogs; there’s a number you can call if you see that happening.

    Wed, February 12 at 8:42 am
  10. Greg Flood said,

    I helped steward the playfield as a community member from about 1992 through 2008 and led the improvement projects at the park from 1998 through 2008 and can provide some historical context. There is no doubt that heavy off-leash use inflicted tremendous damage to the turf in the winter months. As Fred says, the damage happens when the field is wet and the turf is soft… basically all winter.

    Please recall the field was not always used as heavily for soccer as it is now. When I first got involved, the community preference was to maintain access for all families and not have a single user group dominate use. Parks signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the WCC in the mid-1990’s agreeing to only schedule youth soccer at the west end of the field so that the east end of the field would be available for use by families electing not to enroll in youth soccer. This was a compromise reached in community meetings that essentially initiated organized youth sports use of the field. The MOU also agreed that organized sport use would end by 2:00pm on Saturdays with no scheduled use on Sundays, again, in order to facilitate drop-in use for all neighborhood families.

    During this earlier time, the field began winter fairly intact, but steadily turned muddy as the winter wore on. Yes there was minor winter use by residents, some with cleats, but the predominant “tracks” noted in the mud were all manner of paw prints. The damage makes sense because a running dog gains purchase in the turf with their claws. There is a reason why all the off-leash areas are muddy and bare.

    During the improvement projects, we broached the concept of banning cleats at the field for adults. Parks told us they could not require that, but that it might be possible to implement a good neighbor policy requesting users to please refrain from using cleats when the field was soft, similar to what Fred has suggested.

    Regarding the drainage of the field, even if a long-rumored spring existed below the field, the drainage system installed would created a zero hydrostatic pressure zone about 18 inches below the turf. Heavy use compacts the top few inches of the field and prevents water from getting down into the drainage layer. This was confirmed during the Hamilton design process when soil samples were taken. The recent practice by Parks of plugging, sanding, and seeding the field in the off-season should help mitigate this, but winter closures should be expected to maintain the health of the turf.

    Remember, Wallingford Playfield is YOUR park. Wallingford is woefully short on open space and was promised additional resources as part of the Neighborhood Planning process in exchange for increased housing growth, which targets we have far, far, far exceeded. The philosophy during my stint was to strive to maintain open, drop-in access to the field at the park. This was a unique feature of Wallingford Playfield, identified in surveys, as the inventory of nearby parks indicated many other locations for scheduled activity. This philosophy may no longer be desired by the community, but understand that Parks is eager to help you use your park in the manner that you wish.

    Back in the 1990’s, we sampled off-leash use and found 70 to 100 dogs per day were run at the field. Dog paws have built in cleats. When they run and turn, they will tear the soft turf. If residents wish to RUN their pets, a better location is one of the 14 off-leash areas that have been provided for that purpose. After all, that was the agreement that COLA made with Parks and the City when the off-leash areas were created in the 1990’s.

    Wallingford Playfield is a heavily utilized community resource, a living room for our neighborhood. As growth targets have been exceeded, as youth soccer demands have expanded, as Hamilton has adopted sports use, the field is seeing a level of use that it did not receive 15 years ago. My feeling back then was to seek a balance between scheduled and drop-in use as represented in the Memorandum of Understanding. In order to acheive sustainable use of the field, all user groups will likely need to compromise and try to do what is best for the field, sometimes possibly not getting everything they want for their program. Cooperative use is the key.

    Wed, February 12 at 10:03 am
  11. Fred Slater said,

    I love Greg’s comprehensive and thoughtful post. Here are the progressive photos that I promised: http://wallingfordplayfield.weebly.com.

    Wed, February 12 at 1:27 pm
  12. Patrick Long said,

    Thanks Greg for that trip down memory lane. Some of you may also remember that massive renovation of the playfield’s drainage system that took place shortly after the renovations to the playground, picnic area, sunken garden and perimeter paths were completed. The field was closed for an extended period, completely dug up and new drainage layer installed. The first winter it was open was a disaster. Parks standard practice of leaving the grass clippings on the field, combined with the soccer damage created an impermeable top layer. The flooding was so bad that some us were out sandbagging the south end of the field to prevent the washing away of the newly planted sunken garden slope. All this is to say that the field still doesn’t drain well and this makes those rainy soccer days make it particularly destructive. Fred’s picture show this pretty clearly. My kids played soccer there so I’m complicit, but I think postponing those games would be a really good idea.

    Wed, February 12 at 3:51 pm
  13. Wallyhood said,

    Wow, this nails it. Thanks for putting this together. I’ve contacted Colleen and made sure she saw it.

    Wed, February 12 at 11:32 pm
  14. Anne Phillips said,

    Great Fred. I will say that even the holes were caused by soccer games. I saw them immediately after the teams played in the rain. It’s younger kids that play at Wallingford, and I suspect their tendency to group around the ball causes the holes. Hopefully the league can instruct coaches to scratch games if the turn is very wet and/or they see that play is causing damage.

    Thu, February 13 at 9:59 am
  15. theburg said,

    I lived a block from the park and walked through it several times a week for 9 years and my belief is that there were three factors that led to the mudpits by late October. (1) Pick up soccer and ultimate games in early spring while soil was still very moist and grass still gaining a foothold. (2) Insufficient watering in the late spring causing it to dry out and die. (3) Overuse by WSC in the fall.

    My 2 cents FWIW

    Fri, February 14 at 12:58 pm
  16. AnnaPhylaxis said,

    Fabulous series of photographs! Thank you so much for posting! Really helps to pinpoint source(s) of problems and suggests a good solution! Bravo!

    Sun, February 16 at 1:37 pm
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