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Fund-racers tear turf

Event damages South High's sports fields

Event damages South High's sports fields

October 21, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

karenh@herald-mail.com

Bicyclists who sped through fields made soggy by driving rains at South Hagerstown High School set off to raise money for victims of breast cancer.

According to school officials, the racers left a mark - everywhere they went.

More than a week after the Antietam Velo Club sponsored a race at the school, ridges of dirt cut a loop about a half-mile long around South High's playing fields. The school might have to charge for the damages from the rain-soaked weekend, said Assistant Principal Jeremy Jakoby, who is responsible for attendance and the high school's facilities.

Nearly 5 inches of rain fell the weekend of the Oct. 8 race, according to www.i4weather.net, a Web site maintained by local weather observer Greg Keefer.

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That created a great environment for cyclocross racing, said Joseph Jefferson, one of the event's organizers. The bike group had received prior permission to use the grounds.

But, Principal Rick Akers said bike tires left "huge ruts" and "ankle twisters."

According to Jefferson, the race featuring more than 200 riders raised more than $2,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley. He said he does not want the costs of repairing the course to take away from the money riders raised, but members have offered to fix the fields themselves.

"My thing is this: I think people are getting bent out of shape about something that's gonna remedy itself. It's gonna remedy itself, whether our guys do it, or we let Mother Nature take care of it," Jefferson said by phone Wednesday.

The school system does not often have to bill groups after an event for damages, Director of Facilities Rodney Turnbough said by phone Wednesday. Determination of what it will take to fix the fields has not yet been made, Jakoby said.

Jakoby said he did not realize the event, which attracted riders from all over the East Coast, had been billed as a rain-or-shine activity until the day before the race.

It rained more than 4 inches the day before the race, according to www.i4weather.net.

Despite his concerns, Jakoby said Jefferson assured him by phone the group would avoid creating damage, and it would accept responsibility for repairs, if necessary. Jefferson provided insurance information with his request for the use of the facilities before the event, Jakoby said.

"We're not at odds with the group, you know, it happened, they seem to be taking responsibility, and we'll work with them to make sure the damage is repaired," Jakoby said.

Tim Lung, who helped organize the event, challenged the use of the word "damage" to describe the bike-tire etchings of the course.

"I'm not trying to minimize the impact the bicycles had, but hopefully, the school will be cooperative in allowing us to come in there and make some repairs, so we don't have to spend all the money we raised on the school grounds," Lung said by phone Wednesday.

The grass already is starting to grow back, Jefferson said.

"I think if you go out there right now and took a picture of the softball field, the practice soccer field, you wouldn't see where we were at," Jefferson said.

According to Jefferson, racers enjoyed the course so much they want to make sure they can come back next year, he said.

"We're looking at grass that will regrow, a temporary, cosmetic condition versus breast cancer," Jefferson said.

Jakoby and Akers said while they try to give community groups ample access to the school's public facilities, they do not want to be reckless. The bike race, which was in its second year, might not be allowed again, they said.

"I know that event raised money for charity, and that's great ... but we can't sacrifice the school to raise a couple thousand dollars for a local charity," Akers said.

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