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Fort Nugent fields get grand opening
"Some called it Oak Harbor's field of dreams. Others, an example of what people - bureaucratic and non-bureaucratic - can accomplish if they work together for a common goal.Many such people, including Marines, City workers, politicians and Oak Harbor Youth League soccer and football coaches, parents and players were on hand last Saturday morning, to celebrate the grand opening of Fort Nugent Park, a brand new 22-acre soccer and football field complex, a few miles west of Oak Harbor. As for the kids who attended the grand opening - they were just calling it a cool place to play.And so it is.Once a hilly cow pasture, overgrown with wood, scrub and hill, multi-purpose sports field is now a putting-green level, plush grassy home field, for the thousands of Whidbey kids who play youth league soccer or football every season.But transformation was neither fast, easy, nor accomplished without a lot of cooperation.Briefly, in 1996 a group of youth sports fans conceived of a soccer complex close in to Oak Harbor.Bill Block and Laurie Martin started fund raising, then mayor Steve Dernbach threw his support behind the idea and a assortment of agencies, including the Oak Harbor School District, the City of Oak Harbor, the Marines, the Navy and Island County came up with either land, money or volunteer muscle and manpower to make the field a reality.City Parks Supervisor Hank Nydam threw his support and planning expertise into the project early and stayed with it to completion.By volunteering hundreds of hours of his time, Nydam helped coordinate the efforts of the many groups who supported the idea of a home field.One such group was Marine Corps Wing Support Squadron 473- Detachment B, stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.In 1998, the Marines, under then-commanding officer Lt. Col. Mike Merrill, the Marines started the work of leveling the rolling, overgrown pasture.In all, more than 200 Whidbey-based Marines tackled the project eventually moved and levelled in excess of 80,000 cubic yards of dirt, supported by donated equipment from Jet City.The Corps' efforts, in turn, was supported by dozens of City and civilian volunteers and backers, including Joe Franssen, Helen Chatfield-Weeks , County Commisioners Bill Thorn, Mac McDowell and Mike Shelton.A few months ago, efforts to finish the park intensified as the season for youth league soccer and football approached.Then it was done. Field leveled, grass cut, lines stripped and goal posts and soccer nets in place.This truly exemplifies what this community can do if we all work together toward a common goal, Nydam said during the ceremony.The only group that didn't applaud were a bunch of little girls in soccer uniforms. They cheered. Then went off to play on their brand new home field.You can reach reporter D. Patrick Connolly at email@example.com or call 675-6611. "