Bethel Athletic Fields Deals With More Flooding

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, February 01, 2018

Bethel — In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene ravaged the Bethel Athletic Fields complex, covering its baseball, softball and soccer fields with a thick layer of gooey silt due to massive flooding from the abutting White River.

Cleanup required countless volunteer hours and other resources. It appears the town could be in for a similar scenario this spring.

Instead of 3 feet of mud, the fields are covered this time in large swaths of chunky ice, the result of a mid-January thaw and rainstorm that caused an ice jam and, once again, flooded the fields.

The outfield fencing for both the baseball and softball fields collapsed, and the fields’ soccer benches and goals were damaged. The posts for the softball scoreboard are bent and twisted.

It’s what the landscape will look like after the ice melts that concerns Whitcomb High head custodian John Hubble.

“We’re probably looking at something similar to Irene,” he said. “It’s the worst it’s been flooded since then.”

In the meantime, the lingering ice is allowing officials to consider action for when it recedes. The town owns a loader, but Town Manager Greg Maggard fears its tires may do more harm than good to the terrain.

“We’re looking into equipment options,” Hubbard said. “We’ve been in touch with an excavation company, but that can get very expensive. We’re hoping we’ll be able to get some donated equipment.”

As for the fencing damage, Hubbard received one repair estimate in the ballpark of $4,600. “It could be worse,” he said.

It’s unknown if necessary repairs can be completed in time for the start of baseball and softball season for Whitcomb-Rochester, which will play its final spring campaign before Bethel merges with Royalton this summer to become the White River Unified School District.

In fall 2011, Whitcomb High’s soccer teams were forced to play home games at Randolph Union High as clean-up efforts continued in Irene’s aftermath.

Hubbard, Whitcomb Principal Owen Bradley and athletic director Lindy Stetson are confident the community will rally to make the fields usable as soon as possible, much like it did 6½ years ago.

“Students are already talking about ways they can help and things they can do to volunteer,” Bradley said. “There’s one who wants to (assist in cleanup) for his Eagle Scout project.”

School Names, Mascot and Colors Selected: The schools under the newly formed White River Unified School District will be known as White River Valley, and the high school mascot will be the Wildcat, according to Stetson.

A joint committee of administrators from both South Royalton School and Whitcomb High sought advice from members of the Twin Valley School District, which formed about 12 years ago, combining the towns of Whitingham and Wilmington.

“We did some polling and narrowed it down to three choices, but one of them, Central Vermont, had just been taken (by the Northfield-Williamstown merger),” Stetson said. “It actually made it easier that it was down to two, which were White River Valley and Third Branch.

“I think the fact that the school district is going to be called the White River Unified School District helped make the choice easy; plus, it’s where we are. Both towns are on the White River, so it just makes sense.”

As for the mascot, administrators accepted student suggestions and narrowed them down to the Royal Hornets (a combination of the schools’ current mascots), the Rapids and the Wildcats. The Wildcats won on a majority student vote, Stetson said.

While the Royal Hornets failed to stick, the new schools will honor a combination of the previous schools’ colors. The Wildcats will don green (derived from Whitcomb High) and gold (derived from South Royalton), Stetson said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.