FEMA housing could lead to demolition of some Phoenix-Talent Little League fields and facilities

The City of Talent voted to have the Phoenix-Talent Little League fields as a backup for FEMA Temporary Emergency Housing if other sites aren't deemed useable.

Posted: Feb 21, 2021 8:12 PM
Updated: Feb 22, 2021 3:39 PM

(This article was updated to include a statement from Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood)
TALENT, Ore. — Two days after the City of Talent discussed the possibility of using the baseball fields in Chuck Roberts Park as a backup for FEMA Temporary Emergency Housing, the Phoenix-Talent Little League gathered to figure out their plan of action.

The board of directors through discussion decided they had three options with what to do about the city's decision: they could do nothing and be without a little league season for the next few years, try to patch together some semblance of a season with basically half the fields they would normally use, or they could challenge the decision and do everything in their power to keep the fields.

After discussion with families of little leaguers, the Phoenix-Talent Little League chose to stand their ground.

"We heard from our community how important it is for our kids to fight for little league," Jeanetta Woodside, the vice president of the little league said after the meeting. "We will begin petitions to take a stand."

The most frustrating part for the board members of the Phoenix-Talent Little League was the lack of communication between them and the Talent City Council. According to the little league board members, the city called the little league number and left a message about their proposal to use the fields as a possible site for FEMA trailers the night before the city council meeting was set to vote. Phoenix-Talent Little League president Erin Parent said they never were given much of an opportunity to have a dialogue with the city about what the decision would mean for the fields and facilities.

For the City of Talent, no sites have been chosen to place FEMA housing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency still needs to review the sites to see which will best fit the requirements for the temporary housing and the needs of the displaced people.

"The City of Talent hasn’t chosen any site with FEMA yet," Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood said in an email to NewsWatch 12 on Sunday. "We are viewing several sites with FEMA, one of which is just two of the four diamonds at Chuck Robert’s park. We will also be showing FEMA another site at Chuck Robert’s park, while we continue to look for more sites, all of which will serve as possible contingency sites. Contingency in case any of the two mobile home parks, which actually are chosen, don’t fill the need or fall through. I appreciate the concerns but we are pretty far from 'chosen' at this point."

The overall message from the meeting is the little league as a whole would be fine with temporary housing possibly being put in place of the fields. What worried them was not having the fields and facilities that would be demolished to allow for FEMA housing restored and returned to the league.

"I don't understand why taking displaced families and bringing them to a location that would displace 150 of our children of our community would be an option," Parent said. "Our children have already been through enough with the fires and to potentially take [their season] away, it's an emotional thing."

Some of the families at the meeting are seeing it from both sides. Don Phillips lost his home in the Almeda Fire and has been a part of the Phoenix-Talent Little League community for years. When Don told his family their house had burned down in the fire, his son Chris asked him one thing.

"One of the first words out my little leaguers mouth the night of the fire were 'Dad, do you think the ball fields are burnt?'" Don said at the meeting. Don said he's worried that if infrastructure is put in to accommodate temporary housing, the city will choose to keep it there and turn the ball fields that have been there for 50 years into a permanent housing division.

His son Chris is worried other kids won't be able to play baseball on the same fields he did growing up and local kids won't have a place to play close to their homes.

FEMA is supposed to begin surveying potential locations for temporary housing units soon. The Phoenix-Talent Little League would be left two of its four fields if they chose to build on the site and the Phoenix High School softball field would be available to host some games and practices as long as they don't interfere with the high school teams set to being practices in late March. The Phoenix-Talent Little League is scheduled to host tryouts next weekend.

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