Ball fields a victim of drought |

Ball fields a victim of drought

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – The ball fields at the base of the Dillon dam likely will get a whole lot uglier before the summer is over. Summit County’s only method of watering them has basically dried up, assistant county manager Sue Boyd told county commissioners Monday.

“We’re physically not able to pull water from the Blue River,” she said.

Or as Commissioner Tom Long put it, “The straw doesn’t reach.”

Summit County, which holds the lease on the fields, waters them via a pump dropped into the Lower Blue River. Water levels in that portion of the river now are so low the pumps aren’t working, according to Boyd.

“(The fields) are the first obvious victims of the drought,” Long said. “There may be others. Some of the local golf courses are close to having taken their physical supply also.”

Last week, ExxonMobil officials said they will release 5,500 acre feet of water from Reudi Reservoir near Basalt – a release that allows users with junior rights including Keystone Resort, the towns of Frisco and Silverthorne and Summit County – to continue using Green Mountain Reservoir water. Summit County’s portion of the Green Mountain water pool generally is used to water ball fields at the base of Dillon dam, but Long said the ExxonMobil water “is the proverbial drop in the bucket,” and won’t help the ball fields.

“All the augmentation won’t do us any good if the physical structure (the pumps) won’t allow us to draw the water,” he said. “Even in a mildly dry year, we have some issues with getting water from the stream onto the ball field.”

Watering the fields already had been curtailed this summer due to drought conditions, and commissioners Monday said they don’t know what they can do now to maintain the grass.

“I certainly understand the need to keep grass alive at the bare minimum so you don’t have to replace it,” said Commissioner Bill Wallace. “There’s obviously an immediate problem, but I’m not sure the county is the one to be solving that problem. Why can’t the softballers pay to have a water truck come in?”

The Summit County Softball League, which includes about 1,000 players, is a major user of the fields. But league president Mark Pierson said he doesn’t think it’s the organization’s responsibility to maintain the fields.

“We just sublease,” he said. “And softball is not the only group that benefits from those fields.”

Pierson said he was forewarned about the potential the watering source could fade away.

“I was told at the beginning of the year that was a possibility,” he said. “Certainly we’re concerned, but you try to put it in perspective – what’s more important, water for human consumption or the grass? Of course it’s human consumption. Does that mean water for grass isn’t important? No, but it’s just degrees of importance.”

Pierson, too, said replacing the turf would be an expensive proposition.

“But do you spend so much to pump water in that it costs more than actually replacing the turf next year?” Pierson said. “I don’t know if there’s any easy two-step answer to any of this.”

County staff has been directed to look into possible solutions to the watering issue, said Commissioner Gary Lindstrom.

“It could be in the form of trucks (or) using a fire hose,” Lindstrom said. “We care about how it looks. We spend about $60,000 a year making it look nice. But if we don’t have any water …”

Summit County’s lease on the ball fields expires in 2003. The Silverthorne Council is considering forging an agreement to manage the area that would include the council, the Summit County Softball Association and the High Country Soccer Association, but that agreement hasn’t been completed.

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

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