A field of dreams

Waldo community tranforms area of park into a baseball diamond

This new baseball field that was built in Waldo was constructed using community funds with little outside help. Skilled members of the community also provided the sweat equity. The field is at the city's Sid Martin Park, once a dump site.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 at 10:36 p.m.

WALDO- Waldo's own "field of dreams" was alive with a swarm of volunteers recently as they readied the area for ball playing.

Jim DuBois, pastor of the First Baptist Church, was getting instruction on laying sod from Waldo Mayor Louie Davis (recovering from surgery and donning an eye patch).

A team on yellow bulldozers was moving dirt around to create a smooth surface. That was Russ Dyson of Fairbanks, who works with the Bradford County Sheriff's Office and is a parent of a ball player, and Ray Burnsed Jr., a player, parent and coach who is with Ray's Metal Works.

Deputy Clerk Kim Worley tried to avoid the machinery while picking up limbs cut out of the overhanging trees.

There were police officers, prison inmates, parents, teen-agers, grandparents - all volunteers, and all digging in to create a ballfield for the town's youngsters.

And it all came together a few Saturdays ago, as baseball teams from the Lake Area/Babe Ruth played on the field for the first time.

The beginnings

It was Mayor Davis' idea to turn the former dump site into the Sid Martin Park a few years ago. Councilman Rodney Estes wrote the grant and drew up the plans for the layout of the park.

Expanding it with new ballfields began when coach Henry Drake and his wife, Pam Drake, formed Waldo Area Recreation Council Corporation after parents realized there were not enough fields for the kids teams to play. They began a grassroots effort to assemble volunteers and donations to change that.

For many years the city only had one field, at the Waldo Community School. There were many adult softball tournaments as well as the regular ball season, so the city added the second ball field at the school.

Approximately three years ago Waldo Community School added an eight-pack of classrooms, which turned the second field into a T-ball only field and the larger field had to accommodate the other six teams. But that larger field was actually too small for the older boys' teams.

The idea to put ballfields there had come up several times before but were never seriously considered until Burnsed had plans drawn up for the field, took the mayor and some council members there one by one, and showed them how they would fit in. The council approved the plan and allocated $10,000 toward the ballfield development.

That's when the work really began. Alachua County Public Works cleared the field and hauled in fill donated by CM Stepp of Hawthorne. WCC Site Development Inc. of La Crosse brought in dirt, clay and limerock at a low cost.

Dyson spent countless hours spreading and leveling fill and Burnsed continued work, laying out the field, trimming the trees, helping with the burn piles, ordering and laying the grass, ordering the fencing, building the team benches and pouring the concrete for the dugouts.

Burnsed and Dyson estimate they spent 1,200 hours - at the very least - working on the fields.

Tom Easom from W.W. Gay arranged for installation of water fountains for the park. Larry Watson from Watson Construction donated the bulldozers and other heavy machinery.

Steve Blakewood from the Waldo Flea Market also lent equipment when needed.

Warden Steven Singer, Department of Corrections, sent Officer Bill Cross and a DOC inmate work force, which made it possible to complete the project in time for this year's season.

Bleachers were donated by Pat Byrne and the city of Gainesville Recreation department, and Burnsed and Dyson transported them to the field.

More in the future?

The park is serving as a recreational center for the town. Many families are low income and don't have the means to send children to summer camp or programs elsewhere.

Plans include adding a second field, perhaps a soccer field; building a new concession stand; a children's park may be created; and the woods behind the property will be developed into nature trails and bike paths. Fencing between the ballfields is a priority.

Some even dream of putting a gymnasium and possibly a new fire and police station at the far entrance of the park.

The ideas are endless - limited only by the resources and imagination of a hard-working community.

Kim Worley contributed to this report. Ann Enck can be reached at 468-3227 or enckamac@aol.com.

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