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Wednesday February 8th 2023

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That's what she said

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Mom, Why Can’t We Play Ball at Casey?


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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