Crawford AuSable Soccer Association gets thumbs up to develop new practice field
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Crawford AuSable Soccer Association (CASA) leaders and volunteers are digging in to provide more space for players to enhance their skills in the community.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, at a meeting held on Thursday, Feb. 14, gave CASA the green light to start developing a practice field. The field, which will be located at the Crawford County Sports Complex next to adjacent playing fields, will be completed with volunteer labor and equipment.
Last year, CASA, with the help of Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo, submitted a grant to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to create a new playing field.
Steve Bednar, the president of CASA, said the grant was for $117,000. He added that there was a six-page list of communities and organizations which applied to get the same pot of money.
“We didn’t get picked, but that’s what we’ve got to live with,” Bednar said. “We want to move on.”
As soon as the winter weather breaks, volunteers are ready to remove vegetation and level off the surface for the practice field.
Bednar said that CASA has $2,000 banked for supplies and materials.
“We would like to get as much completed as possible, and we’re going to turn that into a practice field to start with,” he said.
All volunteers will sign a waiver to not hold the county or CASA liable if they are injured while doing the work.
Old goals will be used to outfit the practice field.
“We want to continue on and we’re going to try to make this work,” Bednar said.
There is a need for additional playing surfaces because CASA currently has 18 recreation teams and four traveling teams.
The teams used to have games and practices at Hanson Hills, but relocated to the Crawford County Sports Complex. The grounds were transitioned into a one-stop-spot for youth sports after the Crawford County Fair ceased. State officials approved a deal to utilize the property for recreational use.
“There are other places that we can practice, but I would like to keep the kids together,” Bednar said.
Youth from Houghton Lake, Higgins Lake, Roscommon, Kalkaska, Fife Lake and Gaylord come to the community to be part of CASA.
“I think we have a good program,” Bednar said. “We’ve got a good bunch of volunteers and good coaches who volunteer their time, and we just want to see it grow.”
The county board approved phase one for developing the practice field. The agreement was contingent on CASA submitteing its plans to Paul Olmstead, the director of the Crawford County Building and Safety Department. In addition, a letter was requested from the Grayling Viking Youth Football league, giving their approval for the new field.
Bednar said some existing fencing on the grounds will be reused to prevent snowmobile and off-road-vehicle access. Additional fencing will be erected to secure the field.
“We had some issues and I had to call the sheriff out a couple of times,” he said.
CASA officials will come back before the county board before they continue with other phases of developing the field such as hydro-seeding and installing irrigation equipment. Obtaining funds and other factors play into those plans.
“We know we can’t do all that on our own,” Bednar said.
Eventually, the league would like to host weekend soccer tournaments similar to those currently held in Midland, Petoskey and Traverse City.
“I would like to see us grow that way,” Bednar said.
A former tee-ball and football coach, Bednar is an advocate for youth recreation.
“I like to see kids outside and doing something,” he said.
John Smock, the vice president for the CASA board of directors, said the practice field would be a resourceful addition for the program.
“Believe me, it will save a lot of wear and tear on the fields that we play on,” said Smock, a volunteer coach who has two boys involved in CASA.