A decades-old local club is voicing concerns about the state of the local soccer fields, and is hoping to be heard by Council. A stern social media post by Merrickville Soccer Club coach Mark Haskins last week demands answers about why Merrickville-Wolford Council allowed a tent to be set up for a wedding ceremony on a field that it uses regularly for Club meetings. The Club had just 30 minutes notice that the field was unavailable, and that wasn’t even the worst part.
“The trucks that have driven on the fields, the dance floor covering the grass, the giant spikes driven into the ground have all done a tremendous amount of harm to where our kids play,” wrote Mark, in his Facebook post. “For the safety of the players and coaches you have to have level ground to play on. Areas around the fields may be open, but they are uneven and have large exposed rocks. Attempting to play soccer on ground that is not level and with exposed rocks is asking for a serious injury. Just imagine a six-year-old player, whose whole focus is on kicking a soccer ball, losing their footing because of a dip in the ground or a rock they didn’t see. That’s how ankles and knees get injured. That’s how tendons and muscles get torn. It’s why we need our fields.”
Club President Nancy Watkins explained that the volunteer-run organization aims to keep soccer accessible and affordable to local families. “We want soccer to be accessible to all kids in our community. We even have an exchange program for cleats and shin guards. This helps to keep costs low. This year, to encourage children to get back out on the fields, we lowered our fee to just $40 and didn’t provide a uniform. Each age group has a red or blue team and the players just wear their own shirts. We had 100 kids come out to play,” said Nancy. The Soccer Club is the largest youth sport club in Merrickville, which Nancy says gives it the distinction of getting more local kids moving than any other local organization.
Nancy described some challenges that the Club has faced in dealing with the Village over the years, including an attempt by the Village to invoice for grass cutting, and an attempt to have the Club pay to rent the field, which was later rescinded. As for what happened last week, Nancy felt a line had been crossed. “The tent should never have been put up on the soccer fields,” said Nancy. “There were other areas that could have been used so as not to displace our kids. The families and youth in this community shouldn’t have to light up social media, call and email the Village office and council to have our fields protected. Recreation and leisure for our youth should be a priority over making some money by renting the field out.”
Coach Mark is hoping that Village residents will help out. “We need your help to hold them accountable. We need you to call, write and email the council members and administration, and strongly express your displeasure at what has been done,” his post reads.
Mayor Doug Struthers was asked about the tent on the soccer field. “Yes, there was a wedding tent on our smaller soccer field on the weekend,” he told the Times on June 15. “With the wet conditions, there were some tire tracks – Village staff reinstated the field to good condition within a few hours the next morning. It was available for use last evening.”
With two sides to every story, it is unclear if the Club and Council will find a way forward. In the meantime, Club members are eager to make sure that their little ones are set for their next safe and exciting game of soccer.