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By Les DeWitt                                  
East Palo Alto Today                               
Posted November 19, 2010

The Rich May Athletic Field is proposed to be installed behind St. Francis of Assisi Church, which is located in the midtown neighborhood of East Palo Alto. This field is important to the youth of East Palo Alto in several ways. First, it will be a state-of-the-art turf field that kids will be able to use in all weather conditions. It will be a regulation size field for soccer, and it will be able to accommodate youth football, rugby and general field running and exercise activities. It will serve many types of athletic and fitness purposes for our kids. It will be utilized first and foremost by the Ravenswood City School District during the weekdays from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. After that, it will be available for scheduling by community youth groups such as the Ravenswood Youth Athletic Association, the Police Athletic League, the Razorbacks, the Greyhounds and many others. It is a project that is aimed squarely at the city's youth for their benefit.

Secondly, its importance lies in the psychological empowerment of having a first class facility in one’s own neighborhood. The same turf that is in many major college football stadiums, and the same brand of lights (Musco) that illuminate Yankee Stadium will exist right in the heart of East Palo Alto's midtown and it will be a field that will belong to the youth of the community. There will even be signs that state that this is a partnership with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The community building potential in this is mind-boggling.

We adults were all kids once upon a time and when we reflect back to a smooth grass field, perfectly groomed  and regulation size, it was like the greatest thrill just to be on the turf. Having the Rich May Athletic Field will be magic for the city's young athletes. It is a project that will lift their hearts, minds and dreams to what the possibilities might be to their lives. When you are a young athlete your future is often shaped by those early childhood dreams.

This is a project that will be a community collaboration between church and school district land partners, between a private family foundation and community athletic groups, between the city's recreation department and the city's police. It's a project that calls together a community in a positive and inspiring fashion.

This project needs to be supported.  Obstructive measures by those who want traffic studies, parking studies, noise studies and environmental impact reports need to be heard and respected. But their requests have to be put in perspective. This is a youth athletic field being installed upon a dirt lot. It is behind a church and next to a school. Over two million dollars will be spent to build, to improve and to beautify this space of roughly two acres. Redwoods trees will be planted, grassy berms will outline the field, and a park like community area will be at the entrance. It will literally be a "field of dreams." It will not "just happen," it will take lots of work. But, this is now the time to stand up and say, “Yes!” to the Rich May Athletic Field.

Please let the East Palo Alto Planning Commission and the East Palo Alto City Council know that you want this to happen. You will have an opportunity to speak to the commission and the council on Monday evening, November 22nd at 7:00 pm. Over a thousand signed petitions in favor of this project will be presented to the planning commission at that meeting. Thank you for your consideration and support.

Les DeWitt is the chair of the Advisory Board for the St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club and a board member on the Richard May Foundation.


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