July 1, 2015 Edition

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Volunteers work to
improve ball fields

Anthony Humes builds up the dirt at the practice fields at Stewart Park. Lawrence County Judge Dale Freeman provided one of the county's road graders for the project, which will provide better drainage for the field.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Through the efforts of Lawrence County, Walnut Ridge, and local volunteers and businesses, progress is being made on several projects at the ballpark in Stewart Park.

Jacob Kersey, little league board president, said he is looking to develop a stronger, more unified little league program, including baseball, softball, t-ball and soccer.

Part of this will include uniting the baseball and softball boards, having leaders in each sport represented and giving each the same benefits and resources.

Kersey said this unified board is important to allow the same opportunities for all players. "I have a daughter and a son who are equally interested in ball," he said.

In addition to changes being made to the board, the little league program will see vast improvements in its ballpark.

Earlier in the year, an exploratory committee was formed headed up by Walnut Ridge Alderman Wendell Jones to look into developing a sports complex at the park. Jones has been meeting with several area coaches and little league board members to discuss what is needed.

The sports complex will take years to develop and is in early stages now as it was only adopted into the city's long-range plan in October 2014.

In the mean time, a volunteer effort was started recently to build up the practice fields and make them more usable. Recently retired, Rick Ditto of Walnut Ridge is actively working on several projects at the park, including the work being done on the practice fields.

Ditto said that time is of the essence and the more that can be done now, the better. "We have to do this now because if we wait until next year, we won't have enough time to do it before the season starts."

Work being done to the practice fields includes building up the infield to provide better drainage and treating the fields with a herbicide. The county provided a road grader to build up the field and the city treated the field and killed the grass.

"The kids just couldn't play on these fields," Ditto said. "It's going to make a huge difference. It's going to make it to where the kids can practice here during the spring and not just try to figure out how to get rid of the water."

Ditto said they owe a great deal of gratitude to the county for assisting with the dirt work. "This is saving us a lot of work." He also extended thanks to Brad Flippo, former little league board president, Greenway Equipment, Bret Ditto and others for their time and effort in getting this project done.

Kersey said his first priority is to get the fields in good shape. He said land work will begin soon on the t-ball field and also added that work will be done to the soccer fields as he has someone interested in leading that program.

"We're still a long way from where we want to be, but we are making progress," Kersey said.

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