BIGFORK – Baseball season is right around the corner for most youth leagues around the state. However, in Bigfork, the Babe Ruth sanctioned league will have to wait to use one of its fields after Flathead County Parks and Rec used it as a snow lot this winter.
The department allowed the road department to remove snow from downtown Bigfork and dump it on Potoczny Field.
“As soon as we saw it, we made contact with the county and it really kicked off a firestorm that hasn’t ended,” said Scott Johnston, the Bigfork Youth Baseball Association president.
Parks and Rec is currently responsible for maintaining the field. As of today, leftover piles of snow are creating large puddles, while debris from the snow covers the outfield with just a couple weeks left until baseball season begins. Johnston is disappointed the snow was dumped there at all but said in a March 8 meeting with the Parks and Rec department that the league recommended the ice be removed before thawing, but the department chose otherwise.
“To think that it all would have been prevented if they had made one decision differently,” said Johnston.
Parks and Rec director Jed Fisher felt different.
“We felt it was not only spend a lot of money, but do more damage trying to take that snow back off of the fields than allowing it to melt,” said Fisher.
He says they intend on fully restoring it, but Johnson believes it is more than a clean-up.
“It’s not just the snow, it’s the damage created by the plows. It’s the big gaping holes in the grass, the ruts, the mound that’s been completely destroyed. It’s more than a clean-up effort, there’s going to have to be some repairs made,” said Johnston.
Fisher also acknowledged the frustration from the league and says he won’t make the mistake again.
“It’s on my shoulders, I did it, I regret it, I won’t do it again,” Fisher said. “There’s the best way I can put it.”
Johnston says there are still other issues between the county and the league ranging from a 66 percent fee increase this season to safety issues at other fields, but he says he won’t be deterred and will continue to strive for a strong youth baseball program in Bigfork.
“We will continue to provide this program for our kids despite the obstacles the county continues to present,” said Johnston.