Gophers force city to consider closing sports field

Soccer leagues are racing to repair Heather School’s athletic field after a gopher infestation threatened to close the field just days before the start of the soccer season.

This afternoon, San Carlos United President Dan Robinson and members of the San Carlos chapter of the American Youth Soccer League will fill the field’s gopher holes with dirt and sand, hoping to prevent injuries to young players who could otherwise trip and fall on the pitted field.

The news comes at a time when San Carlos is struggling to resolve an ongoing feud over the future of local athletic fields. Heather’s field, which is leased by the city for use by local sports teams, is one of three that city officials are considering renovating — possibly with synthetic turf.

Parks and Recreation Director Barry Weiss declared the field unplayable Wednesday.

“It’s not safe with holes in the field,” he said.

But the last-minute declaration dealt a blow to San Carlos soccer leagues, which include approximately 1,900 players, Robinson said.

Heather School’s field had been closed much of the summer, and it reopened just four weeks ago.

“They’re telling us they don’t have the resources to fix it or keep it up,” Robinson said. “If we want to play, we have to do it.”

If youth soccer players are displaced from Heather’s field, they will be forced to play on San Carlos’ other fields, all of which are already overused, Weiss said.

Last week, following years of committee meetings, recommendations and changes of direction, the City Council voted to launch talks this month with the San Carlos School District to determine the feasibility of renovating fields at Heather, Tierra Linda and Central middle schools — possibly with synthetic turf.

“The fields have been an ongoing problem … and every city council has failed to act on it,” Robinson said. “Now, programs are on the verge of being canceled.”

Replacing Heather’s field with a new grass field would cost $818,000, while installing a synthetic field would cost $1.3 million — and remove the gopher problem, according to Weiss.

Mayor Matt Grocott said he can understand residents’ frustration, but the process is moving as fast as it can.

“We got as far as we could without the schools’ input, but now we’re at a point where we need to sit down with them and have some serious talks,” Grocott said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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