DENVER (CBS4)– Denver’s playing fields are covered with snow but drought is what’s forcing the Parks & Rec department to shut down outdoor ball fields until April.
The turf is extremely dry and brittle and playing on it can kill the grass when spring comes.
Denver Parks & Recreation is not only closing the playing fields in the parks but also practice fields on Denver Public Schools campuses. That decision is affecting thousands of families who use the outdoor space.
“This is Veterans Park. This is where we have about 200-300 kids every Saturday and Sunday,” said Skyline Soccer Association employee Aaron Nagel.
The youth non-profit enrolls thousands of children to play soccer every spring and summer. The soccer season usually starts every March but this year it won’t start until April.
“They can extend that out which threatens our viability as an organization,” said Nagel.
Denver is bracing for drought conditions that haven’t been seen in more than a decade.
In 2002, Denver closed athletic fields and those fields deteriorated with no water.
“The fields are incredibly dry. We need to let the grass stay dormant then it will come out of it and it will be less susceptible to damage,” said Denver Parks & Rec spokesman Jeff Green.
Green said the suspension is about preserving the longevity of the parks not the inconvenience of less-than-perfect turf. Any repairs to the fields could be expensive because the price of replacement sod is costly.
“If conditions continue to get worse we may have to extend the closures,” said Green.
Youth organizations are scrambling to find ways to keep their leagues going before kids find something else to do.
“If we don’t get kids playing early enough they’re going to find other things to do, they’ll watch TV,” said Nagel.
Some private land owners are opening up fields on their land but there seems to be a great need and not a lot of resources.