Soccer club presents proposal for Roundhouse soccer fields

By: 
LEWISTOWN SOCCER CLUB

The Lewistown Soccer Club’s proposal uses a southern portion of Brewery Flats as the location for two new soccer fields. Brewery Flats is outlined in dark gray, and proposed location is outlined in white.

Graphic courtesy of Brett Thackeray

The soccer field proposal includes landscaping and a parking area located off of Roundhouse Road.

Graphic courtesy of Stahly Engineering and Associates

Almost a year ago, the Lewistown Soccer Club was formed. Our nine-person board was mostly concerned with the success of our two teams in the Montana Youth Soccer’s Classic League, and one in the Great Falls Minibolts Program.  

As we began to hold practices we realized how cramped and over-used our practice field was. We began to entertain the idea of building a couple of soccer fields elsewhere to help alleviate our impact on Symmes Park, as well as giving the Redbirds more elbow room. 

We talked to many landowners in the Lewistown area. A few locations seemed to hold potential but each one lacked either size or accessibility, and would cost too much to modify. Early last summer, we approached Kevin Myhre, the City Manager at the time, to see if he had any ideas. He mentioned that the reclamation of Brewery Flats had soccer fields included in the planning. As it turns out, soccer fields have been discussed at the southern end of Brewery Flats twice in the past; once in 1999 and again in 2009. We explained our ideas to him and began talking with city officials about how to proceed. The initial steps were quite basic: determine if the area is legally available (covenants, zoned for recreation, etc.), determine if it is large enough, develop a detailed plan to present to the City Parks and Recreation Board for their endorsement; then present to the City commissioners for their approval.  

After that the hard work of raising money and developing our plan began. We hired an engineer to survey the site at Brewery Flats. He provided us elevations and a map of the area. We researched how to best build athletic fields by visiting architects, engineers and other clubs that had built soccer fields in Montana. We met with excavators and dirt movers. And finally, we presented a rough outline of our ideas to the City. 

Before we had a chance to complete our proposal, the Big Spring Watershed Council sent a letter to the City opposing our project and any plans to change the Brewery Flats area from its current state. In light of this public opposition, the city commissioners asked us to re-evaluate all possible locations before proceeding. The Big Spring Watershed Council volunteered to help and formed a committee to explore alternative locations. In effect, the process started over.

LSC has investigated 16 different sites, some of them numerous times. The BSWC committee proposed a section of land that is controlled by the airport board and located at the west end of Airport Drive - just west of the Central Montana Flywheelers. This property is designated for commercial, revenue-generating use, and it does not seem a viable location (for more details please see our informational display at the Civic Center).  

The LSC board has outlined the qualities that a proposed site should have for a successful soccer complex. It must be safely accessible by children, close enough to town that it will get used, large enough for two fields that measure 100 yards by 130 yards each, and affordable. The 7-acre field at the south end of Brewery Flats is the best candidate on all accounts: it is accessible via the trail system for young bikers and walkers. It isn’t in town but it is the closest area to town that is large enough. And it is owned by the city - thus making it affordable. Although the LSC has initiated this project and plans to raise the money to pay for it, the City’s Recreation Department will use the fields to run their Fall Soccer Program. The two entities plan to share the responsibility of maintaining the fields; therefore locating them in a city park is the ideal situation.

Due to some growing concerns with developing soccer fields in the southern part of Brewery Flats, we reevaluated our plan and began to explore what potential negative effects our project might have on Brewery Flats and its current users. Some believe that Brewery Flats is a native habitat with native species of plants and feel it should not be disturbed. We consulted with a plant specialist and conducted random samples of vegetation in the proposed areas in question. 

Unfortunately, what was found is that the area in question has almost no native plants, and even a few established colonies of noxious weeds. While the reclamation efforts may have helped the natural meander of the creek, and fish habitat, there seems to have been little attention paid to the rehabilitation of native vegetation aside from those areas adjacent to the creek. The overall reclamation of the areas outside of the waterway seems to have promoted non-native grasses consisting of mostly Smooth Brome, Kentucky Bluegrass, and quackgrass, with little native vegetation remaining and low diversity. Local FWP biologist Sonja Andersen does not anticipate any adverse effects to wildlife if we stay to our proposal as outlined and said “the area already sees use by the public (walking dogs, etc.) so additional ‘disturbance’ by soccer activities are not likely to further impact the area.” 

In addition to FWP, a retired certified wildlife biologist and professional wetland scientist, Chris Merker, has evaluated the site and concluded, “the proposed fields (will be) located on fill (that is) now dominated by non-native invasive weeds and grasses. Wildlife value is extremely low/nonexistent. (The Soccer Club’s) proposed mitigation would greatly increase native shrub and tree communities, resident and migrating songbirds, waterfowl and resident deer.”  

He added, “ a very real restoration opportunity exists to create wetland. The existing ditch (on the west side) has relatively low wildlife value. With some minimal effort, while equipment was on site, “re-meandering” and plugging the ditch would increase wetland area and functions and values, and add improved amenity value to the Proposal.”  

The plant specialist also noted “this could be a good opportunity to pull all concerned groups together to actually rehabilitate the native vegetation of Brewery Flats and create a native plants education area that could be part of the proposed soccer field complex.”  

After considering these evaluations, we do not believe our project will detract in any way from the experiences of the current users, but will increase the appeal of Brewery Flats.

LSC also appreciates Brewery Flats, and we want to enhance the visual appeal, as well as improve the habitat disturbed by industrial use of the past. Our plan will replace noxious weeds and non-native plants with native grasses, shrubs, and trees that will improve nesting habitat and food sources for many local birds, waterfowl, and small mammals. Native trees and bushes will increase cover for wildlife, and provide a visual and auditory buffer during soccer to minimize disturbance to the surrounding neighbors. Our plan will shorten the access road and increase the trail system to include a loop along the wetland which connects to the existing trail along Big Spring Creek.  

A large effort was made to restore the damage from the former railroad yard that degraded the area with structures, chemicals, oil and diesel contamination, and noisy activities. Thousands of dollars were spent to re-meander the creek and restore natural beauty to the area. But not much was spent to actually reclaim the land. The soil is compacted and large areas still hold evidence of industries past. We hope to finish the efforts started and restore the wetlands, improve the habitat, and expand the area’s use to include a large flat field that can be used not just for soccer, but for all to walk their dogs, play frisbee, fly a kite, picnic, or just relax.

Recreational covenants already in place limit our activity to 140 days per year. Last year we used the field in Symmes Park roughly 60 days in the spring (March to June) and 40 days in the fall (September and October).  A typical day will see two hours of practice after school. That is roughly 200 hours of playing per year or less than 5 percent of the daylight hours. Over 95 percent of the time the area will be silent.

We don’t view this impact as a significant hindrance to other users of Brewery Flats. There will be no lighting, no loud speakers, no concession stand, no bleachers - just a field with chalk lines and soccer goals on it during the spring and fall, a parking area for use by all, and possibly another vaulted outhouse identical to the current one located about in the middle of Brewery Flats. If future generations stop utilizing the fields, only about five acres will need to be reclaimed, and could easily be replaced by native vegetation that would be no different than the reclamation it currently lacks.

Ultimately, we believe public spaces such as Brewery Flats should serve the needs of the public. We believe that public discussion and input are necessary to make our government work properly. We welcome discussion, and alternatives, as well as opposition to this project. We believe this helps us to look at things from different angles and make informed choices. We encourage everyone to speak up and let their opinion be heard on whether or not the southern end of Brewery Flats can be an appropriate place to build a soccer field.  Please read the proposal, look at the maps, discuss it with your friends, and visit our Facebook page if you’d like more information. Attend a City Commission meeting and voice your support or opposition.  An informational display is set up at the Civic Center for public viewing. Regardless of what happens concerning the soccer fields, we hope we can at least start the discussion of the real need to continue the reclamation efforts of Brewery Flats back to its natural state.

 

The Lewistown Soccer Club Board:

Laura Flugge
Brett Thackeray
Jeff Friesen
Scott Stansberry
Jacque Sherman
Joe Boyles
Monte Werdin
Andre Zollars
Diann DeRosier

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