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VW Fields

Island Life

To be clear, I do not obsess on the VES fields both day and night. If I had a choice, I would pick the day time, because I like to sleep at night and I already have enough spinning around inside to keep me alert during the time of darkness, listening to the mantel clock announce wee hours I’d rather not know about, let alone experience while conscious. It should also be known that the replacement by corporate logos of real names  on public spaces is highly detested in these quarters, for what that’s worth. For all its relative anonymity, VES could be (but isn’t) a corporate sponsor of some sort, so in many ways imagining any acronym there- or alphabetism as it were- is not a stretch of the imagination, especially where a certain vexingly wayward German automaker is concerned.

I came to vaguely think of VES as VW fields in most part because of deception. There is of course the quite recently revealed deception on the part of the German auto maker regarding manipulated emissions testing software and the resulting, potentially harmful and excessive emissions from cars touted as exemplars of “clean diesel” technology. This now, apparently pretend greenness had previously come to my attention  as possibly a quite good reason to purchase one of these vehicles once the dust had settled on the settlement of the grand deceit perpetrated by my sister regarding our family feud and the estates she has wreaked havoc upon financially. I guess the semblance of any good news in this is that because any settlement seems at least months off in that regard, I have been spared the let down of buying into the VW lie. As is the case when one becomes aware of a certain product, I have noticed with increasing frequency how many VW’s are actually around on this Island, so at least in this case I would not have been alone had I been able to buy into this deception.

As for VES, I must say that I never quite believed anything I was hearing from the park board when I started going to the meetings over three years ago. While the repeated phrase that I kept hearing was that there was a “need” for VES, I never have seen or heard of any documentation of this. At the time I asked a friend who is a long time soccer coach if he had experienced any stirrings in the ranks for a VES-like project and he said no. There were, after all, usable fields in that spot prior to the coming of VES. To even get the project going, there was the deception that occurred regarding the matching funds on Recreation and Conservation Office grant that required matching monies to fund the project. As things were to commence, the RCO was told that the monies were there, although they were not, and thus the grand and glorious purging of staff and programs came about to keep the VES project afloat.

Floating is an appropriate term to use when referring to VES, as its sand based existence relies on more water than the average field in order to keep the grass alive. My initial curiosity regarding all this potential irrigation water was directed toward where that water might be going. There is an elaborate pipe drainage structure in place to help the water go away. At a retreat meeting about the VES I asked then project manager Mike Mattingly where the water went. He said it went to the storm drain near the highway and then, he thought, to the sewage plant. I didn’t think that sounded right, so I asked our county roads person Jim Didricksen, who said that the water from that storm drain traveled south along the highway and then it crossed under the road and then went into the Island drainage pattern, so I’m presuming that means that it potentially heads west from there, which is in the direction of Shinglemill Creek. In this regard, it was also my understanding that one is not allowed to either increase or decrease a flow of water off of one’s property- I have not posed that question regarding VES’s outflow to anyone as of yet.

The easiest question to answer in all of the conundrums that VES poses is that of how much water it takes to keep VES in the green, so to speak. As it was, this past summer was maybe a worst case scenario in that department, or maybe it wasn’t. Who knows what weather shifts we may soon see coming our way? I asked parks director Elaine Ott about VES water consumption a while back and she told me that the Department of Ecology required parks to monitor water usage and that maintenance supervisor Jason Acosta was in charge of that. At a recent park board meeting I asked Jason about this and he said that the fields used around Two Million Gallons of water this summer, and that the Ecology Dept. had put a cap of around three million gallons on what VES could use. This seemed like a lot, so I went to the Carr Report on Island water availability and use- the definitive study on Island water done in 1983. What that study told me was that the projected upper limit on water usage for the entire Island was set at 98 million gallons, so as it now stands, VES fields alone could use as much as three percent of the Island’s available water. We do know that the Island’s aquifers are recharged by rain. We don’t know how much this draw down on the field’s well is affecting the quantity of available water in that area, or if it will be adequately recharged for next year or the years to come.

As I understand it, once the maximum amount of water has been used, parks can no longer tap the well that is there for the rest of that year. This presents a problem, as these fields (unlike the ones they replaced which had no irrigation system) will perish without water. One solution that has been explored as a possibility is to have treated gray water trucked in as supplemental irrigation. While any manicured playfield is at best questionably sustainable, transporting treated waste water to maintain the growth of grass on sand is perhaps off the charts in terms of environmental and fiscal ludicrousness. And it was the Carr report that stated that the biggest threat to island water was the dissolved wastes of humans and animals, trickling down and corrupting the aquifers. In both using up clean water and potentially requiring the application of more waste water for its very survival, VES  is anything but the fertile, green plain it presents itself as. In a recent letter to the Beachcomber about proposed upgrades to the high school athletic fields and facilities, former parks commissioner and VES advocate David Hackett asked, “Does it really make sense to install another high maintenance, fragile grass field…?” The simple answer here would be, no David, it doesn’t. But it also didn’t make any sense to build the first one either.