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Dog owners favor sign change at ball park

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

Steven Ayres, left, runs with his 4-year-old lab and pit bull mixes, Monti and Bocachica. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell

Signage at Birdie Tebbetts Field is a pet peeve for dog park proponents. It is one of several concerns expected to be aired at a Holmes Beach city commission work session Jan. 17.

Dogs and kids exercise and play in harmony at Birdie Tebbetts Field in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy Caroline Sparks

A trio of dog pals make a run across the infield at Birdie Tebbetts Field. Islander Photo: Courtesy Caroline Sparks

Dogs run off excess energy in the outfield at Birdie Tebbetts Field in Holmes Beach. While the dogs exercise, the dog owners socialize. Islander Photo: Courtesy Caroline Sparks

Proponents of a shared dog park/ballpark use at the city’s Birdie Tebbetts field expect to seek a sign change from the Holmes Beach city commission Jan. 17. With the issue on the work session agenda, they plan to ask for the city to recognize the dog park use.

“The sign should not be ambiguous. Right now the sign says: ‘No dogs permitted during ball playing activities,’” said Socko Pearson of Holmes Beach.

Another sign posted on the fence says, “This field is baseball/softball use only. All other activities use soccer field.”

Dog park owners who regularly take their pets to run at Birdie Tebbetts Field say they want to approach the commissioners with suggestions on how to change the signs to allow for the continued ball and dog use of the field at Flotilla Drive and 62nd Street.

Pearson said some of the dog owners favor signage that will include exercising their pets on the field as a permitted use, but not an exclusive use.

“We don’t mind that it’s a ball field,” he said. In fact, he added, his dog owner friends are not opposed to organized sports taking precedence over dog running.

Following a meeting of six regular park users on Dec. 30, Pearson said they shared a common experience of casual ball players ousting dog park users based on the “no dogs permitted during ball playing activities” sign.

Other concerns were related to the city’s cost for baseball-field maintenance and protocol for field reservations.

However, he said, it was the signage that irks the dog owners.

“That’s our only beef as dog people,” Pearson added.

Other recent visitors interviewed by The Islander about their dog use at Tebbetts Field Jan. 2 included brothers, Tyler Ayres and Stephen Ayres of Guava Street who had brought their lab pit bull mixes, Monti and Bocachica. Parenthetically, Bocachica is named after a San Diego Padre outfielder, Hiram Bocachica, according to her owner.

“This is the first dog park baseball field I’ve ever been to,” Stephen Ayres said, adding that he is a sports management graduate currently in umpire training. He likes the idea, though, and believes the two activities can be compatible as long as everyone continues to pick up the dog waste.

In a recent interview, public works superintendent Joe Duennes said Birdie Tebbetts is a baseball field, “not a dog park” and is maintained as such on almost a daily basis. Field maintenance, including insecticide, herbicide and irrigation, is performed primarily Dave Benton of the department, Duennes said. “It’s a lot of upkeep for one guy,” he added, “others help.”

The city’s cost for the field’s upkeep is not separated out in the 2011-12 budget, but rather included as part of public works’ general line items for maintenance, supplies and salaries.

Duennes added that the Birdie Tebbetts field was acquired with Manatee County–it did the initial grade work– and if there would be a change in the usage, he thought the county might need to be consulted.

The city provides dog waste bags and receptacles on Flotilla, and according to Duennes, seeing those placed in this location may have started the interest in dog owners using the field.

No problems with dog waste have been reported by city officials or dog owners, who say they clean up waste if it is noticed, and police the field by advising other owners of their dog’s actions.

“I don’t have a fenced-in yard,” Stephen Ayres said, “and I feel I’m doing something very good for them taking them here to run.”

He just moved to Anna Maria Island from Bradenton, and previously used G.T. Bray’s “very good dog park.”

Debate about the dogs using Birdie Tebbetts Field has been stirring in the community this fall partly due to the city’s use of the field’s parking lot as a staging area for a stormwater project.

The stormwater project began in mid-August, and a completion date is set for March, Duennes said.

During the early 2000s, Junior Little League teams sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Community Center Board played on the field.

However, no organized ball has taken place for about two or three years, according to Scott Dell of the center.  Dell consulted on initial field construction, which was dedicated as a park by the city of Holmes Beach in 2001.

Pearson and other neighbors say an informal co-ed softball league uses the baseball field for about six weeks in the summer, but beyond that, the field has been used by people allowing their dogs to run in the secure fenced-in area.

The lack of ball playing at Birdie Tebbetts Field is part of a national decline in baseball as a children’s sport, according to Dell.

The field is located near other park amenities, including city-owned and maintained open grass field, basketball court and comfort station. Manatee County owns the nearby tennis courts, according to Duennes.

Dell said in 2011 the only center-related sports use at the city park was soccer in the open grass field area. Football, other sports and city-permitted arts and crafts festivals also use the open area field.

Birdie Tebbetts Field is the city’s only baseball field. It honors the late George Robert “Birdie” Tebbetts.

Tebbetts was known as a defensive-minded catcher for the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians between the late 1930s and the early 1950s and as the best catcher in the American League in the 1940s.

Birdie settled in the city of Holmes Beach in the 1960s and supported the Anna Maria Island Little League.

One Response to Dog owners favor sign change at ball park

  1. Bosxr says:

    There should be scheduled times for each activity. It is a beautiful “BALLPARK” and far larger than needed for a dog park. I have 2 dogs so can see the need for dog only times. However,to limit its originally intended use as a BALLPARK to scheduled games will take away the opportunity for kids (and adults) to practice or play pick up games. To allow one dog to force a small group practicing to leave would be wrong. There is no other place on the island where people can safely play or practice baseball. It was built as a baseball field and dedicated to a baseball legend. It would be wrong to make it a dog park except for “scheduled” organized games.

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