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Heartache and confusion.
Those are just two of the words that come to mind when Hal Hiott surveys the damage done to one of the main soccer fields outside the Buford Recreation Center earlier this month.
Usually jam-packed with young soccer players, the field now sits unused, etched with muddy, deep-rutted concentric circles. The vandalism was made sometime during the county’s recent surprise snowstorm, when someone plowed a four-wheeler through the wet fields.
“Somebody’s fun caused a lot of heartache to others,” Hiott said.
Hiott, director of the county’s Parks and Recreation department, learned of the damage after one of his employees came to work and found the mess on Feb. 18.
He said soccer season had just kicked off Feb. 16 with team photos for the almost 80 nine, 10, 11 and 12-year-old players on the rec department’s teams.
But the excitement of the season came to a grinding halt when they learned of the damage.
“I think it’s a shame somebody would go out there and do damage like that,” Hiott said. “It’s not doing damage to me or to you, but doing damage to the kids that play on those fields.”
According to a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office incident report, deputies responded to the center, at 4073 Hurley Walters Road, and spoke with an employee who reported a vandalism.
The employee said the fields were fine when she left at about 4 p.m. on Feb. 16, but she noticed the damage when she arrived for work that morning.
The woman told deputies someone had torn up the soccer fields by “doing doughnuts” in the wet grass with some sort of ATV.
A deputy canvassed the area and spoke to nearby residents, but no one had seen or heard anything.
Though the incident report lists damages at $2,000, Hiott said that number will most likely grow to between $2,500 and $3,000.
In order to fix the fields, Hiott said crews will have to top dress the field with a sand mixture to fill in the ruts, level out the field and then reseed it.
“But we’ll have to wait until it gets warmer, because bermuda grass doesn’t grow until it gets hot out,” Hiott said.
The damage has since forced the department to shut down the field, Hiott said, wrecking both practice and playing times. He said players are now exclusively using the only field they have left, which is located at Buford Middle School, near Buford High’s baseball field.
“The kids can’t practice as long as they used to,” he said. “And this doesn’t just impact our teams. It affects the 10 teams in the league. Now they all have to go to other fields in the county.”
Almost two weeks after the vandalism, both county officials and those involved with the soccer program still have strong feelings about the damage.
Bernie Kuebler, supervisor for the soccer program, said the damage has thrown teams into disarray.
“It’s caused a lot of havoc,” Kuebler said. “And not only that, we’ve had a tremendous amount of rain. It’s been rough, but we’re getting through it and hopefully good weather will be coming in the next few weeks.”
Soccer coach Sammy Macy said that while the vandalism hasn’t stopped his teams from practicing, he is disheartened by the circumstances.
“This shows a complete lack of pride, by these people who did it, in the Buford community where they’re damaging things,” Macy said. “All I can say is whoever did it, in my opinion, had some kind of slight against the county and against the department and I think it was done on purpose.”
But the harshest words about the perpetrators came from County Administrator Steve Willis in an email sent to The Lancaster News on Feb. 19. He said the vandals have created several problems, from increased cost to taxpayers to more man hours for work crews to limited practice times for soccer players.
“My heartburn is that apparently when folks buy a four-wheeler they think it comes with permission to ride on anybody's land and do whatever damage they want to property that isn't theirs,” Willis said. “Some mouth-breathing mindless moron has cost the county taxpayers and thrown soccer practice at Buford for a loop, and disrupted recreation plans for a host of Buford school kids, due to their thoughtless actions.”
No arrests have been made in the case and it is unknown when repairs will begin at the field.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416