Moore praise for local ball fields |

Moore praise for local ball fields

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s new Moore playing fields, unveiled last August to rave community reviews, were recently recognized as far more than a nice place to play ball.

The fields constructed adjacent to the Aspen schools campus have been selected for a Landscape Stewardship Award by the American Society of Landscape Architects. It was one of five projects among 35 across Colorado to receive the honor. The local project also received a merit award in landscape design.

Both awards constitute professional recognition for a pair of city staffers who envisioned more than a flat swath of seeded turf on the 19 acres offered by the Moore family for recreational amenities.

Jeff Woods, Aspen parks director, and Kevin Dunnett, city parks planner and project manager, are both landscape architects at heart. Hence the original plan, to level the ground, seed it and divide it into ball fields separated by chain-link fences and metal bleachers, was quickly scuttled.

Instead, two fields were created on separate tiers, retaining the feel of the natural topography, as well as the gambel oak and sage that separates them.

“We didn’t actually take down a single oak in this project,” said Woods.

The six acres of actual playing fields include a baseball diamond and softball diamond, with multipurpose playing fields on the grassy portions of each. They are separated from neighboring homes with open space that has been reclaimed from the thistle-choked former potato fields that once existed there.

With guidance from Stephen Ellsperman, city forester, native plants are taking hold on the site.

And rather than route drainage from nearby Aspen Highlands into a pipe, a stream and a series of wetland ponds divert runoff water from the playing fields and create an aesthetic amenity.

Boulders unearthed during the project were used to form rock retaining walls, some emulating the rubble piles left on the grounds by farmers.

“We didn’t just create a ball field or a soccer field. It’s a beautiful park,” Woods said. “Building a ball field that is part of a native restoration is pretty unique.”

Instead of bleachers, wide cement benches climb the terraced edges of the ball fields, providing spectator space and a place where students on campus gather for lunch in the sun.

The custom backstops, dugouts and restroom enclosures feature reddish, weathered steel and corrugated metal that blends in with the surrounding mountainsides.

The overall idea, Woods explained, was to create spaces that can be used for various passive and recreational uses, rather than athletic fields that see no use except at game time.

The $1.2 million Moore fields are the first completed phase of a larger project that includes construction of new ball fields at nearby Iselin and Rotary parks, which will be ready for play next summer. The planned construction of a new recreational facility at Iselin will bring an ice rink and two swimming pools to the site. All will be connected by a seamless pedestrian/nordic trail system.

The idea, said Woods, is creating a community campus that includes recreational, educational and, with the school theater, cultural uses.

The city contracted with DHM Design Inc. of Carbondale to assist with the Moore project. Much of the actual labor was done by city crews, Woods said.

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