One Strike, But Lots of RBIs
Clark Fork is determined to have a softball team and a field to play on
The crack of ball on bat has a history in Clark Fork, but it doesn’t really have a present—at least, it didn’t. Then last year, as part of Clark Fork’s centennial celebration, the town put together a team and hosted a softball tournament in honor of its history on the diamond and the idea stuck. Adults liked the idea of playing on a team, and they liked the idea of having their children growing up playing ball in their hometown. The sticking point?—Clark Fork’s baseball field.
Although an ‘official’ city park, the baseball field at the town’s Memorial Field is a field in name only. Infested with knapweed, it’s a hodgepodge of gravel, dirt, grass and weeds that’s hard on the knees of anyone looking to slide into home plate.
In true Clark Fork tradition, however, a group of people saw a need for a hometown team, and they formed one. And another group of people (many of them the same as the first) saw a need to improve the field, and they’re working on doing just that. And so the Clark Fork Parks Commission was born.
An official ‘department’ of the city of Clark Fork—albeit one with no funding—the Parks Commission is not only looking to improve Memorial Field, located at the end of Pine St. in front of the senior center, but also the town’s traditional park located near the old railroad depot.
“I remember playing little league in Clark Fork,” said Corey Vogel, a member of both the team and the Parks Commission. “Now I have a son who’s 13, and I’d like him to play too. But right now, if a kid in Clark Fork wants to play ball, they have to travel to Sandpoint to be on a team.”
“We really want to promote the use of this field,” added Will Seay, also a dual member of team and commission. “This gives people a chance to get out and play, to get exercise and get out of doors. We want to give our kids what we had when we were young, to get away from the television and video games, while we also promote our community.”
The baseball field, however, is a first priority. The group has already received a $1,000 grant from the Idaho Community Foundation from the Betty Ann Diehl Greatest Need Fund for Bonner County. They’ve also received funding (part of a grant to the city itself) from the Bonner County Weed Dept. to control the knapweed (an invasive plant) that dots the field.
That’s not to say the path to field improvements has been smooth. The group’s first efforts involved the donation of 14 cords of birch hardwood from Sagle’s Marv Chapman to be sold to support the fundraising for field improvements. Then the local chapter of the American Legion (Clark Fork Post 146) stepped up and offered to donate the labor to cut, split and deliver that wood, so it could be sold to raise money to improve the field.
Problem was, once the wood was sold, and the group looked for the money, the local chapter told them there wasn’t any. Turns out they paid for that ‘donated’ labor and associated fuel and equipment costs, and none was left to put toward the field project. Based on the amount of wood sold, the group estimates it lost between $1,500 and $1,700.
“This was devastating,” said Kasi Snider, who helped head up the fundraising program. “I can’t tell you how it feels when people in your own community go back on what they’ve said to you.”
“I was so incredibly embarrassed,” said Corey Vogel, a member of the Parks Commission who asked his friend, Marv, to donate the wood. “I don’t understand how people can do something like this.”
The group went so far as to ask local law enforcement about charity fraud—given that both those who purchased firewood and the man who donated the logs were told all monies would go to the field improvement—but there’s no written agreement and, so far, the sheriff’s department has not filed any charges.
For the group looking to improve the field, that’s past history now. That money is gone, and they need to look to future sources to accomplish their goals, which includes not only softball for adults, but re-establishing a little league program so interested kids in Clark Fork don’t have to travel to be a part of a team.
On top of the grants they’ve already received, the group raised $3,220 in a charity auction to support field improvements, and are actively seeking other fundraising opportunities. Additionally, in support of that goal, the team is hosting a tournament on July 14, their ‘second annual’ so to speak, and invite all area softball teams not already signed up to play. Those interested can call Corey Vogel at 290-6119 or David Broughton at 290-6577 (both area code 208) to sign up to play.
The proposal to improve the field includes leveling the field itself, creating a dirt infield (so bases can be moved to accommodate different skill levels for games), removal of knapweed, hydroseeding for a grass surface, building two dugouts, purchasing needed maintenance tools like hoses, infield drag tools and the like, installing an underground watering system and, at some point, lighting for evening activities. Total cost for improvements is estimated at around $50,000.
“We’re gathering people who know what they’re doing, to help guide us in developing this project and who are helping us to achieve our goals,” Corey said.
Clark Fork has a history of biting off big projects and then making them happen, from the construction of a field house at the school to the creation of a library (long before it was supported by county tax dollars), the support of an EMT system and, most recently, the reconstruction of facilities at the football field at the school. This lends support to those working on the softball field improvements, as they know that once the town supports a project, it tends to make it happen.
The ball field, which only takes up about half of the area of Memorial Field, is used for several activities currently, including the 4th of July fireworks celebration and afternoon activities, Easter activities (including the Easter Egg Hunt) and could be used for much more, including concerts, family reunions and more, which could be additional funding sources to the city’s budget.
“We’re our own thing,” Corey Vogel clarified. “If you donate money to us, it goes to the parks, and not into the city’s general fund. We recognize the city is strapped for cash and we don’t want to place an additional burden on our local taxpayers. We know the city is broke. But we have a lot of kids coming down now to play, who have never had a chance to play in their hometown. This is a really good... a really cool thing.”
“We’ve got a survey going out in the next water bill,” Kasi Snider explained, “asking residents what they want from their parks in town. As a Parks Commission, we’re looking to do more than just recreate a ball field... we’re in this for the long haul, to create the parks our community wants to have.”
If anyone wishes to contribute to this project, you can write a check to the Clark Fork Parks Commission and mail it to PO Box 10, Clark Fork, ID 83811. If you want to donate materials or labor, or even softball equipment, call Corey Vogel at 208-290-6119.