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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Women soccer players unhappy with county ruling on Pine Ridge Park

After 20 years of playing soccer—and maintaining the fields—at Pine Ridge Park in Annandale, the Fairfax Women’s Soccer Association (FWSA) is losing its preferential treatment to use all three fields all day on Saturdays.

“We did manage to keep our Saturday daytime hours for now on two of the fields, just not the one being turfed. It’s a disappointment for sure,” says Head Commissioner Nancy Swanson. FWSA was founded in 1976 and has 42 teams with over 800 players.

FWSA had been allowed to use all three fields at Pine Ridge, located off Woodburn Road, on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until dark. But now that lights are being installed on those fields and synthetic turf is being installed on one of them, the Fairfax County Athletic Council has determined that the Adopt-a-Field agreement with FWSA needs to be changed.

The council recommends that FWSA still get the two natural grass fields all day Saturdays, but “not retain exclusive use of the new turf field at the same time.” Instead, the council said, area youth groups should have access to the synthetic turf field on Saturdays. While the women soccer players will lose about 10 hours of field use on Saturdays, the council said, they could more than make up that time when the lights are installed by playing on weekday evenings. Youth teams generally don’t use the fields after 8 p.m.

The FWSA has taken part in the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Adopt-a-Field program for many years. Under this program, groups provide maintenance for athletic fields, and in return, receive preference in scheduling time for those fields.

The Fairfax Council Athletic Council commended FWSA for its contributions, noting that the group was “instrumental in the acquisition and development of Pine Ridge in the early 1980s” and has maintained the fields since then. Swanson says the group has spent over $20,000 annually on the fields, in addition to contributing countless volunteer hours.

“Without the contributions of organizations such as FWSA, the county inventory of fields would be much smaller and the annual maintenance costs would be much larger,” the Athletic Council acknowledged. In recognition of FWSA’s efforts, the Fairfax County Park Authority several years ago named one of the Pine Ridge fields for Ruth Walton, FWSA’s head commissioner in the early 80s. This field is the one that is being converted to a synthetic turf field.

“We feel that private partnering with the county should continue to be encouraged,” Swanson says. “With increasing costs and budget shortfalls, it would seem very important that Fairfax County continue to encourage collaborative partnerships with organizations willing to step up and support fields and parks.”

3 comments:

  1. I have mixed emotions on this. While the FWSA has been instrumental in getting, updating and maintaining these fields, to monopolize them comes across as somewhat unrealistic. As mentioned in the June post, they do play on other fields but like to have all congregate here to socialize (and play of course). Taking one of the fields out of the equation completely seems to make that difficult (playing at night on the weekdays does not appear to be a remedy for what they desire). If it was a matter of them not having a space to play, i'd be a lot more sympathetic. My fear however, is that this will damage the public/private partership relationship. FWSA appears to have been a really, really good parter for a long time and deserves to have the county bend over backwards for them. Since they are getting lights, might they have provided the FWSA with all 3 fields from like 1 or 2PM - 10 or 11PM? The youth groups could have had all 3 fields from 8-12 (12 total hours).

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  2. You make a very reasonable argument. It's hard, though, not to see this as a slap in the face to the women soccer players in the county who have diligently kept up the fields. Seems like demand for the fields from more recent arrivals who have not, at least to my knowledge, contributed to the fields' upkeep, trump the hard work of the FWSA. I think that's a bloody shame.
    Bev S.

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  3. Soccer and women's sports are not well represented on the Fairfax County Athletic Council. Kicking the women off the field they built and maintained for 20+ years is grossly unfair, and everyone knows it. The three-field tournament-like Saturdays at Pine Ridge has been wonderful for women's soccer in Fairfax County and it's a real shame to tear it apart now.

    Immediately after this vote, Mark Meana attempted to claim the Saturday time for his football program using a provision he put into the county policy years ago designating football as the primary sport over all others in the fall. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the county gave it to a youth soccer group that was also desperately short of field space.

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