Residents across from Butler Park are urging the city to take more action to protect them and their property from baseballs flying over the park’s fence.
Kerry Carlson’s windshield was smashed by a baseball in June and while she’s upset she won’t receive any compensation from the city, she’s more concerned about the bigger picture along Second Avenue.
“How would you feel living across the street from a baseball park and you’re scared to go out when there’s a game on because the balls are going to fly over and hit you?” she asked.
She and neighbour Hugh Miller, who has lived on Second Avenue for 30 years, are suggesting the older teams either play or practice elsewhere more netting be installed.
The lowest height of the fence at Butler is between eight to 10 feet and doubles in height along the third base line.
Since the closure of the Old Bridge, Carlson and Miller have seen an increased amount of traffic along Second Avenue — most of it ignoring the 30 km/h speed limit — and they’re just waiting for a ball to hit a car while it’s driving, causing a major accident.
“It’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, it’s when,” said Miller.
Both want to come up with some kind of a solution with the city.
“I’m all for minor sports and stuff like that but someone has to take responsibility — we’re doing everything we can on this side of the fence to protect our property,” Miller stated.
The baseball teams are not liable for damage and the city has policies in place that allow them to deny financial requests like Carlson’s insurance deductible.
After the windshield incident, Carlson wrote a letter to the city regarding her concerns. A week after she wrote her initial letter at the end of June, Carlson said five signs were posted along Second Avenue and on the fences of Butler Park warning people to park at their own risk — one squarely planted infront of Carlson’s home.
“While we thought it might be obvious that there could be some concern about balls leaving the park, those steps were taken,” said Michelle McIsaac, the city’s corporate administrator.
To Carlson and neighbour Hugh Miller, that’s an admission of guilt.
“By putting those signs up, they’re admitting liability — it’s like me putting a sign up that says ‘Beware of dog’ … You’re admitting there’s a problem there with this piece of fence,” Miller said.
“It’s a cop-out for the city — it’s their park, it’s their responsibility and people are getting hurt — and I’m saying hurt because that $200 out of my pocketbook (for the insurance deductible) hurt me — you think I’m Rockefeller?” Carlson said.
When Butler Park hosted the recent North Idaho American Legion district tournament, 20 to 30 baseballs came into his yard from those practices — which is when most balls come flying out of the park, Miller said.
Both McIsaac and Davison said parks and recreation staff are continuing to look at projects to improve the fencing or screening but at the end of the day it all comes down to how much money is in the budget.
The issue was brought up at this year’s budget meeting, but the proposal wasn’t adopted due to lack of funding. As a result, it will be tabled again in 2012.
Davison said her office is always open for residents wanting to share concerns.
“Having her (Carlson’s) correspondence adds more value to the project versus just a staff recommendation to increase fence heights because we think it’s a good idea,” she said.
“Obviously if there’s a community concern about it we would look at it closer and say we should actually do something about it — so her letters and information are actually incredibly beneficial in helping to move a project like that forward when the budget deliberations happen.”
But until then, it will be shades drawn for Miller and Carlson, as Butler Park is hosting the Western Canada Baseball Championships, starting on Thursday.