Construction on a new fence around the Randolph Campus athletic fields is underway with the purpose of protecting the fields. The project began on Oct. 25 and will conclude next week following issues surrounding damages caused by dogs and other traffic in the neighborhood.
Head of School Bryn Roberts said, “The construction of the fence came after a long conversation that was really about the cost for the school community of having the fields open to everyone any time of the day or night.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the community started using the fields as a dog park where one could often find 30-40 dogs at a time. The fields were often left destroyed given the number of dogs and their owners on the fields, many of whom would not clean up after their pets, making some of the fields unusable.
Mary Saul lives near the school and used to bring her dog to the upper fields at night. She said, “At the beginning of the pandemic, it was a safe place to go and allow your dog to exercise and socialize while the owners could social distance as well as get some desperately needed socialization. It continues to be that even today. We have all become part of a large extended family. Who knew the pandemic was going to last this long? [Using the fields has been a]… saving grace to many and we are forever grateful.”
Saul described St. Paul as a “dog park desert” and admits that while the owners did their best to clean up it gets harder as the days get shorter.
The dog excrement posed issues for fall sports teams: “Having dogs on the upper field made (soccer) practice this year difficult because we would sometimes be limited to using smaller sections of the field because people didn’t pick up after their dogs,” senior Isabel Lutgen said.
Roberts said there was also damage done by people at night: “We had partying… damage to the field — some that had even been done by vehicles.” It was clear to the administration that the fields weren’t being used for their intended purpose and were left to find a solution.
The community expressed concern that they would lose access to the fields, but Roberts assures that this won’t happen. “We will have access for neighbors and kids who want to play on the fields outside of school hours. I expect to see kids playing on it in the summer and hope to see people tobogganing in the winter, and people running around the track,” Roberts said.
Freshman Carson Grandberg, who on the block around school, said, “I enjoy using the fields outside of school. Me and my friends enjoy playing soccer there for fun.”
While the fields will be opened for community use, the school will enforce the no dog policy.
Roberts went on to explain that “The fence is something that is thoroughly consistent with what’s at other schools.”
The school is following suit as other independent schools such as Mounds Park Academy, Minnehaha Academy and The Blake School who have their varsity athletic fields and courts fenced off from the community.
While it seems like residents understand the reasons for the new fence, they wish there could have been more conversation: “I wish SPA had been more willing to speak to some of us before… shutting our community out of their property with the new fencing. I know that several people have reached out to various members of SPA’s administration. I view it as a missed opportunity on the part of SPA. I understand the school’s issues but I think that there could have been another solution that could have been more mutually satisfactory,” Saul said.
The fence secures the baseball and soccer fields, the track and the playground. There will continue to be doors that provide access points but that may also be locked during certain hours.