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Wednesday August 21st 2019

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That's what she said

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Mom, Why Can’t We Play Ball at Casey?

By and

Because it’s closed to neighborhood use.

The synthetic turf playing field at the renovated Casey Middle School is a lot of things: centrally located, environmentally friendly, guilt-free green— and off-limits.  A grey Master lock and a BVSD sign declare use of the field restricted to properly authorized individuals who have reserved it ahead of time.

No kids with kites.
No Snow Day sledders.
No Frisbee-tossing teenagers.

The field where generations of Boulder kids learned to throw a ball or turn a cartwheel is now closed to casual use. Casey officials have indicated that the field will remain locked up like “all District turf fields,” despite earlier promises to provide public access to the space.

This unfortunate decision comes at a price for local youth. Recently, the police showed up because a few neighborhood boys had scaled the fence to play Frisbee. The message to these teenagers? “Playing outside can get you in trouble.” In an age of epidemic child obesity, isn’t it irresponsible for a public institution, renovated with over $30 million in tax dollars, to take away a communal space that has been used primarily by children for outdoor recreation?

The lock-out seems especially unfair given that access to the field and adjacent sledding hill was a major point of discussion during the planning phase of the Casey renovation project. The sledding hill has been a fixture of central Boulder for years, and community members attended design meetings to ensure its availability after project completion. School officials assured the public that access to the field and hill would be preserved.

The reason now cited for the closure—protection of the newly-installed synthetic turf—runs counter to the justification provided for installing the turf field in the first place. In addition to the major benefit of conserving water, the synthetic turf was touted as being tougher than grass. Limiting access also runs counter to one of the guiding principles for BVSD facility planning, as articulated in the Educational Facilities Master Plan, which describes the projects funded by the 2006 Bond Issue (including the Casey renovation): to “[c]ontinue to encourage community use of facilities.”

Nothing discourages community use of a field more than a lock and a sign urging residents to report its unauthorized use. Boulderites value an active lifestyle. Our public schools should promote this value by providing more places for kids to play, not less. Unstructured outdoor play is one of the basic joys of childhood. If we want to raise a generation of healthy adults, we need to start today in our own backyards—and playing fields.

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Reader Feedback

7 Responses to “Mom, Why Can’t We Play Ball at Casey?”

  1. Mary Young says:

    Attend the next meeting of the School Board at 6:00 p.m. on December 14 to let them know what you think. Meetings held at the Board Room of the Education Center at 6500 East Arapahoe Road, Boulder, CO.

  2. Jud Valeski says:

    disturbing. I’d attend the Board mtg on the 14th, but I’ve sunk so much of my life into trying to get that BOD to do the right thing, and they so rarely do, that I can’t justify the time anymore.

    • Tom Hanson says:

      I sense a pattern here. Near our house, BVSD has removed about 2/3 of the playing field/park area to build a new school. (Note in the bond issue the point was to renovate Columbine Elementary, not build a new Columbine Elementary). This new school is at least 2 stories tall and blocks out much of the openness of this park as it is built within a few feet of the street and neighboring houses. I don’t understand how the School District doesn’t have to abide by minimum setbacks like the public does. The old school will be torn down and replaced with a parking lot. Net result- loss of a huge playing field area and substantial reduction in Columbine Park. Gain- one big parking lot and a huge new school.

      • Susan Peterson says:

        Here, here — and to make matters worse, the lost playing field was home to a vibrant community of Latino sportsmen and women who are least likely to speak up to defend their space.

  3. Susan Peterson says:

    Oh Big Brother — now we put fences and locks around school yards? Oh yeah, wouldn’t want to encourage dis-organized play — that would be too cheap, and easy and available to everyone! If you can’t attend the School Board meeting, please take a moment to send an email to the Casey Principal, Alison Boggs at

  4. Rob Smoke says:

    The city, the neighborhood, everyone was asked to support the Casey renovation —
    the voters with school bonds, the city had a financial consideration in the matter which council approved…
    now, everyone who came through and supported the renovation can go take a hike.

    I wonder if anyone on council will even mention this tonight?

    Any interest at all in what’s actually going on in the world besides what’s on the tight little agenda
    drawn up by city staff and the city attorney?


  5. Michael Hibner says:

    Time to once again “muster on the green” …. ironically a strange, surreal, petroleum spawned, synthetic, “green washed” green, ….. an empty, dead, imprisoned heartless void, in the center of our community unless our kids can all play on it again and bring it back to life !

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