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Soccer Parents: We Need the Playing Fields at Brickyard, Not Organic Farm

“We have thousands of kids competing for fields in this county,” booster parent says.

Parents say the soccer fields proposed by the Brickyard Soccer Field Project are long overdue.

For nearly two years, the Brickyard Road Middle School site in the heart of Potomac has been embroiled in a heated battle between Montgomery County’s mission to turn the site into youth soccer fields, and local activists’ desire to save a 32-year-old organic farm. The most vocal of the fight’s participants have opposed the county’s plan, but soccer parents are starting to speak up.

"I really feel that the bottom line is that the people in Potomac—and many of my friends live there—they don't want the traffic, they don't want the hassle. But it's really not about that small group in Potomac. It has to be about what's best for the county," said Laurie Lane, a Clarksburg parent with three children who have played soccer in Montgomery County.

Since at least 2009, Montgomery County has planned to develop soccer fields at the site. It was originally set aside for a school, but for more than 30 years has been leased by the county school board to a farmer who grows organic crops. Opponents of the soccer fields say the county hasn't been forthcoming about the plans, and some, including as an asset to Montgomery County residents and public school children. Supporters of the soccer fields say the county needs more playing fields.

Demand for fields exceeding supply

There are a total of 400 ball field sites in Montgomery County with at least one ball field each, according to Ginny Gong, executive director of the county’s Community Use of Public Facilities Office. In fiscal 2012, CUPF issued 4,508 permits for county ball fields, amounting to 188,384 hours of use. Only half of last year’s permit applicants were actually given space, Gong said.

“The demand for field time exceeds the number of available fields in several areas of the county, but especially in areas such as Potomac, Bethesda and Rockville," Gong said. "Potomac/Bethesda are probably two of our highest demand areas.”

Permits are issued on a historical basis—organizations that have previously used certain fields usually have first dibs on those fields during the next permitting season. Priority is given first to Montgomery County Public Schools and PTAs, followed by county or city recreation departments. Permits are next issued to league organizations and then individual teams or community users.

“Each year the leagues get bigger, but we don't have an increase in the number of fields from year-to-year to accommodate the increase in league participation,” Gong said. “My staff tell me every field that can be booked is pretty much booked. The only reason it may not be booked is because it's being taken offline for maintenance.”

The process for getting field permits is long and arduous, said Lane, who has worked as an administrator for the Potomac Soccer Club and is a booster parent for Clarksburg High School. That’s especially true for newly formed teams that can’t depend on historical usage of a field to save them a spot.

"You've got coaches and managers and kids who have paid for their uniforms and they need a place to practice," Lane said. “It's about providing the people in your community a place to go. If you've got little kids who are trying to play soccer or T-ball, they're not going to want to drive two hours in traffic around here to do that—they want to go around the corner.”

Daniel Hayden, a Potomac parent with two children in soccer programs, said he’s no stranger to long commutes for soccer practice.

“Our family adds considerably to congestion,” Hayden said. “The home field for our child in the Bethesda Soccer Club is in Muldoon’s Farm in Beallsville, which is 17 miles from Potomac. And the home field for our child in the Potomac Soccer Club in Germantown is 13 miles from Potomac.”

Hayden said he thinks Montgomery County could have better handled the public process of leasing the Brickyard site from MCPS and avoiding controversy, but that the end result is good.

Shock, accusations and lawsuits

The Brickyard Soccer Field Project was an unwelcome shock to some in Potomac. Civic groups, including the West Montgomery County Citizens Association and the Brickyard Coalition, said that the plan resulted from backroom deals. Opponents accused Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) of skirting public process and making backroom deals with Montgomery Soccer, Inc., the group contracted to build and manage the soccer fields. Leggett firmly denies the allegations.

A state board found Montgomery County in violation of open government mandates multiple times throughout the controversy. County officials discussed plans for the soccer fields as far back as 2009, with closed meeting discussions continuing through 2010, The Gazette reported.

wrote that the school board was aware that the Potomac community would heavily oppose a decision to lease the land to the county for soccer fields and urged the county to begin the public notification process as quickly as possible. Still, on March 8, 2011, the school board heard comments from the public before ultimately deciding to sign a lease with the county.

The Maryland Open Meetings Law Compliance Board found in July 2011 that Montgomery County residents were not made sufficiently aware of the proceedings. in which they said the county failed to turn over public documents related to the controversy. Circuit Court Judge Ronald Rubin ordered the county to repeat a search and make public documents available.

Plans for the ball fields are on hold as a judge decides whether the school board acted within its rights to lease the land to Montgomery County. The case is an appeal of an earlier Maryland State Board of Education decision supporting the county board’s lease with Montgomery County. Judge Robert Greenburg heard motions from both sides in county Circuit Court in Rockville on Friday, but has not yet ruled how the case should proceed.

The county’s behavior in the controversy should not cloud the needs of county residents, Lane said.

“We want all of our county officials to be up front with the way they do business, but the land is still county land," she said. “I believe [Leggett] was trying to act in the best interests of the majority and not the minority.

“We have thousands of kids competing for fields in this county.”

Stop re-electing these people February 13, 2013 at 05:10 PM
I grew up around there and remember it as the corn field. There are a lot of issues about this. First, MSI has gone to the county and asked to take over the maintenance of them but the county said no because then MSI would want preferential treatment to get first use of the field. I think the county is making a bad decision there. John Hendricks / Discomery put his money where his mouth was when he was fed up withthe crappy fields. -Discovery Soccerplex. The farm has been getting a sweet deal for along time. I grew up going to school in that area, my kids have as well. So far none of us have gone to the farm for educational purposes.
Carissa February 13, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Check out BrickyardEducationalFarm.org. You will get to take a look at the educational component of the land. I believe their new website will be up soon as well with the entire business proposal that they hope to be allowed to submit to the school board. And talk about a sweet deal, the going ag price has been 1300 dollars a year, which is what the previous farm rented it out at. MSI would be getting it for 1500 dollars a year, and they are not an agricultural organization. And I agree that the county should reopen talks regarding accepting MSI's help with maintenance.
Jane February 13, 2013 at 05:46 PM
One more thing...Soccer kids are in the minority. The majority are all the kids that are not in soccer. If this land should serve the purpose of the majority, then the Educational Farm wins hands down. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is trying to act in the best interests of the "minority" not the majority. Not everybody in MC lives and breathes soccer on the weekends.
Jane February 13, 2013 at 05:48 PM
I read somewhere that MC has at least 500 soccerfields. Do we want 600, 700, 800 soccerfields? It's insane and never going to be enough. There's so much green space at parks, and other places that are already just grass. Level those and use that. This plot belong to ALL the students. It is so much better off being used as a educational farm that ALL students can take advantage of than for a select few to kick around a ball. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and MSI are just being donkeys about it.
Elisabeth Waugaman February 13, 2013 at 05:50 PM
This discussion always fails to mention that the organic farm on Brickyard is a nationally recognized organic farm with teaching programs for both agriculture students and thousands of MoCo school kids. It is one of very few farms in the nation with this nationally recognized status and teaching capability. MoCo schools have a "No Child Left Inside" program and nationally we now recognize the necessity of teaching our kids how to eat so that they can grow healthy bodies and play sports. My kids played MSI soccer. I am all for soccer; but not at the expense of a national farming treasure that touches the lives of thousands of elementary and agriculture students every year. This area is already more soccer friendly than most. We have a soccerplex one street over and single fields right around the farm. As has been previously noted, there are many other locations for soccer fields. There is no other location for this farm because it is an organic farm. It takes many years to create organic soil and organic farms can not be within a five mile pollination range of GMO farms. Understanding that we are what we eat, that our kids need to learn about nutrition and how we grow our food so they understand what they are eating, why would you destroy a farm that is unique in MoCo and one of a handful like it in the nation to put in soccer fields that we can put somewhere else? Clearly, somebody is not thinking clearly. We need to keep moving forward, not backward.
BlueSky February 13, 2013 at 07:02 PM
We had the chance to take some of kids on a fieldtrip to the Brickyard farm where they got to help hands-on with the planting and got to see all the amazing things that make up the fabric of life on this farm. These kids were just glowing and in the ride home they were just so excited about their experience. They were so upset that the farm was going to be destroyed and were coming up with ideas left and right of what they could do to help save the farm. This is truly a one-of-a-kind special farm, I see it touch their hearts and they really felt bonded to the land and food. I've taken my own kids to different farms before but this is the only farm they feel really special about and really connected with. While other states are so far ahead of MC in sustainable teachings and connecting kids with healthy food, MC keeps falling farther behind because we have leaders that just don't get it. The school board, Dr. Starr and Executive Leggett doesn't get the fact that this is not just another farm, it is a gem. To destroy it to put up another typical pesticide-laced soccerfield and asphalt parking lots is shameful and a disservice to all Montgomery County kids. Needless to say our group of kids were heartbroken when we told them that was probably their last trip to this farm.
NatureLover February 13, 2013 at 07:32 PM
If Janis is correct that technically the land belongs to the State Board of Education, who gave our County Executive, Ike Leggett, the authority to secretly make a deal with MSI?
Edward Guss February 13, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Potomac Patch is so misinformed! Their information is out of date. This issue should not be framed as a binary decision of soccer fields or farm based education for the children of Montgomery County. Moreover, no one is arguing for the retention of a private organic farm. And no one should be advocating for private soccer fields for MSI. This is public land which should be used for public education. On the contrary, we should all be advocating for using the Brickyard Road Farm Site to educate the children of Montgomery County School System about sustainable farming, preserving the environment and healthy food production. It should not be a zero sum game. There is only one, I repeat, only one certified organic farm buffered from any GMO contamination in the county. This land offers an extraordinary opportunity for our school system to establish a model of farm based education. In 2012 it was demonstrated how popular and effective the Brickyard Educational Farm in educating our children. If fact my grandchildren played soccer in the morning and enjoyed learning at the Brickyard Educational Farm in the afternoon. They could not wait to return to the farm. Ed
Dick Stoner February 14, 2013 at 05:36 AM
Thanks to those folks who recognize just how unique it is for an organic farm to be far enough away from GMO corn and soybean fields to prevent the mixture of GMO and non-GMO seedstocks. This land is a gem and it's current use is unique in farming and food production. Brickyard Educational Farm will educate the children of Mont. County on farming and seed production at a time when it's needed more than ever. The choices in agriculture between natural and chemically or genetically altered foods are extreme and we'll all learn about the risks which greatly increased when chemical fertilizers were introduced and "technology" in food production brought about changes that include great increases in yields but also nitrogen and phosphorus that creates a dead zone in the Bay each summer. There is an opportunity to educate children and adults about food production on this unique piece of land. If MSI can redirect it's planned investment to upgrade fields in Wheaton and other parts of the county, this can be a win-win, and a truly educational experience can flourish in Potomac, MD
Eric S. February 14, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Know what we really have a shortage of in MoCo? Strip clubs. There are none. What does that have to do with children? I'll tell you. . . When these kids with bitchy helicopter parents grow up, they won't be able to find a date because they haven't done a damn thing for themselves or learned to be strong. They'll be lonely, and need strip clubs. Won't someone think of the children and build some strip clubs? Seriously, I appreciate the want of another soccer field, and it sounds like the people involved really just want it in Potomac so they don't have to soil themselves with the sight of the hoi polloi. Keep the farm, please. Food, real food that isn't full of subsidized crap, is expensive. The more options to grow it, the better.
Edward Guss February 14, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Part Two: Potomac Patch, your position is short sighted. There is a plethora of soccer fields and other land which could be used for soccer fields (The County Executive offered such land) which does not require the destruction of an irreplaceable resource in Montgomery County. But there is not one other place for our children to learn and experience sustainable agriculture at a true producing organic farm as Brickyard Educational Farm. At 15 miles from the White House it has the potential to be a national model, one that once again will show that the Montgomery County School System is the leader in the nation. Just think of the damage and destruction of this precious resource offers that we will squander. Not only are the opportunity costs priceless, plowing under and paving that precious soil would take away the only heritage seed farm in the county which could teach the children something very important about our planet and the environment which is already in jeopardy. It is the organic soil and the dedicated educators that will help teach children about the necessity for sustainable farming practices and how organic practices translate to healthy bodies and a healthy planet. Your article on soccer fields calls into question your professional journalism and credibility. If you haven’t seen the other side of this issue visit: savethissoil.org and brickyardeducationalfarm.org. Edward Jon Guss
Fred Foo February 15, 2013 at 01:54 PM
There's also a dire need for 7-11's in Potomac. Potomac doesn't have any! Talk about unfair. (And yes they are educational! You can learn that if you don't get an education, working at one will be in your future.)
Katie Griffith (Editor) February 15, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Mr. Guss: Thanks for your comments. I assure you we don't have a position on the Brickyard controversy either way. If you'd like to read more of our coverage of both sides of the controversy, you can find our archives here: http://potomac.patch.com/topics/brickyard-road-controversy. If you're looking for more information about the Brickyard Educational Farm, try this link: http://patch.com/A-wSpQ
Caroline taylor February 16, 2013 at 02:12 PM
“Our family adds considerably to congestion,” Hayden said. “The home field for our child in the Bethesda Soccer Club is in Muldoon’s Farm in Beallsville, which is 17 miles from Potomac. And the home field for our child in the Potomac Soccer Club in Germantown is 13 miles from Potomac.” Why are permanent soccer facilities being allowed on farmland in the Ag Reserve - served by groundwater and narrow roads. The zoning code does not permit these types of facilities in the area long designsted for farming and resource protection. Where is the code enforcement? Moreover- Rare and important Brickyard Farm derserves both praise and protection.
Becky Pugh February 16, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Totally hate the idea of more soccer fields - anywhere. But, especially on Brickyard. It's the last thing we need. Sorry that the schools are so monster sized in this area that they can't provide area for all kids to play a sport. I needs to be addressed in another way.
Naomi Bloch February 16, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Still makes it PUBLIC land, Janis. That is one of the most important issues here. This is a "land grab".... PUBLIC land for a NON-PUBLIC use. Period.
Naomi Bloch February 16, 2013 at 05:46 PM
That is because... even though this farmer WANTED to teach on this farm for all of the past 30+ years, his MCPS least forbid him to do so. We all have our opinions... but this issue ought to be decided IN PUBLIC and BY THE PUBLIC. Period.
Naomi Bloch February 16, 2013 at 05:51 PM
The only explanation I can figure for this secret, behind-closed-doors sweet deal is, as usual.... a very important political contributor wants this and Leggett is 'making good on a promise', to use his own words. Politics, Folks. That is really what's going on here. And ALL taxpaying citizens of Montgomery County should be outraged! The reason? ONE: Because that is how a democracy should work. TWO: Because next time it just might actually be an issue that affects YOU.
Naomi Bloch February 16, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Great points, Elizabeth. One point to me also is... (and always has been... since this issue broke into the light of day).... that PUBLIC SCHHOL LAND should be used for PUBLIC SCHOOL PURPOSES. NOT for a pay-to-play private entity. From the very beginning this has been a clear mis-carriage of democracy and this county executive should be ashamed.
Naomi Bloch February 16, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Ms. Griffith, I would respectfully say that reading the above article leaves me wondering if, in fact the Patch (or you) might not be biased in some way. The reason I say this is that you have known all along that MSI would be the recipient of this land-grab and NOT the community at large. Mr. Leggett is simply acting as the facilitator for this private use of public land. Furthermore, quoting Ms. Ginny Gong, Director of the the COMMUNITY Use of PUBLIC Facilities (CUPF) seemed like a completely disingenuous, not to mention mis-leading addition to this article... on this subject. Naomi Bloch
Robin Buck February 16, 2013 at 06:56 PM
The MSI website contains a document articulating its stance on the Brickyard Property. (https://msipremier.d4sportsadmin.com/object.aspx?id=196) In section 3, "Thoughts in Opposition to the Project," it states: "(MSI) ...cannot accept it as a reason to perpetuate a narrow business use of public land that could provide broad public benefit." The MSI website also states that "MSI provides soccer participation opportunities for 15,000 Montgomery County youth." And US Census data reveals that Montgomery County has nearly 1 MILLION residents, presumably all of whom need to eat. Soccer playing kids constitute 1.5% of the county population. So which is the narrow use of public land here???
Jim Burnetti February 17, 2013 at 04:30 AM
The residents of Brickyard Road are part of the County. You have gotten away with the annoying speed bumps and traffic circles in front of your McMansions, on what used to be an arterial road. But you don't own that property - and you should have no more say than any other county taxpayer on the best use of that property.
Janis February 18, 2013 at 05:31 PM
@ Naomi - Then the use as a farm is not public either.
Janis February 18, 2013 at 05:33 PM
Big misunderstanding here. This is not public land up for grabs. It is land that has already been dedicated to the use of public school children for the public school system in our state. All children are entitled to a free public education. This land is dedicated to make that happen. This land already has a stated owner and purpose.
Carissa February 18, 2013 at 07:31 PM
That is right Jim, this property belongs to all the taxpayers of montgomery county, not just the property owners surrounding the land or soccer families. This land is unique in the county, and will benefit all tax payers and their children in the area through educational programming and environmental conservation. Visit brickyardeducationalfarm.org (new site up on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013) that will include entire business proposal) to find out how!
Carissa February 18, 2013 at 07:34 PM
I love your comment Janice, as it shows that the article above was not fact checked very well. I think this is such an exciting time for this soil, because for the first time in 32 years, it has the opportunity to be used for public use as an educational center and not a private farm!
Carissa February 18, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Educational use for educational land! Agreed!
Fred Foo February 19, 2013 at 01:40 PM
But the educational component of the farm is very recent - started after the secret deal was made. The question is: Where were the crops (and profit, if any) going before?
Fred Foo February 19, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Just to clarify, Leggett *should* make good on his promises. Can't fault him for that. Where he made his mistake was when he *made* the promise. I suspect he relied on his aides (and probably just one) who presented it as a very simple, low-level deal. Probably his aide didn't appreciate the consequences either and was relying on the MSI lobbyist, Pasternak, who used to be an aide himself, and knew how to paint a one-sided picture. That's the way so many rotten choices are made in our government - by politicians who don't do their homework and get taken advantage of.
Sammi Cook February 21, 2013 at 09:28 PM
“The nation that destroys its soils, destroys itself.” - Franklin Delano Roosevelt This quote stays with me, even though the slapping down of new neighborhoods and essentially ruining some of the world's best farmland here in Illinois, has all but stopped. There are always alternatives for most kinds of development. Check out the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (the old Soil Conservation Service) for some helpful educational info to help people understand why soil is essentially irreplaceable.

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