A Question of Commitment

I am writing in response to a story regarding the resignation of Coach Andy Devitt at Stonewall Jackson High School [Prince William Extra, Aug. 18].

We have been very involved with the grounds at the Stonewall Jackson baseball field for several years, and take great umbrage with what Coach Devitt had to say. This past spring, we were very upset with the comments Coach Devitt made in the media.

At the time, we didn't say anything publicly because we didn't want the players to be distracted by anything while they were in the playoffs. Now, we can't just sit idly and be insulted without responding and getting the truth out.

Coach Devitt did not do what most other good coaches do: take charge of his field to make sure things are done. He would promise to help us when we were working on the field, but when we called, he either didn't answer or just didn't show up.

We were out there working on the field early in the morning the year the sniper was around just to make sure the turf was ready in the spring for the kids, and where was Coach Devitt? Where was he when Ray Walker and his son were out in the hot sun, tying down the outfield windscreen? Or when we rented a sod cutter to straighten the base paths? Where was he when we hired someone to aerate the turf on the entire field at no cost to the school? How many times did Ray mow, drag and line the fields before a game, even after his son left?

Coach Devitt did not coordinate anything regarding the upkeep of the field. His complaint about the weeds in the infield is really his fault because he never bothered to make sure weed killer was applied. The few weeds that grew around the fence were there because he never organized parents or volunteers like us to remove them. The point is that a coach doesn't necessarily need to do the work on the field (most do help), but they need to coordinate the activities to make sure they are done. Coach Devitt didn't do any of that, and he didn't ask for help.

To keep the baseball field looking nice over the past few years, we have donated tens of thousands of dollars in improvements. We donated infield mix; re-sodded the infield; installed a new warning track, new bases, backstop netting; completely rebuilt the turf along the first and third bases; top-dressed the entire infield area; re-graded the infield; re-graded home plate and installed a new plate; overseeded and supplied fertilizer every year. That does not include the hundreds of hours watering, raking, mowing, cleaning up, removing brush, trash and debris, lining and whatever else was asked of us. We have rented equipment to use on the field and used our own equipment.

To say that he didn't get any support from the administration is just plain wrong. Coach Devitt got almost everything he asked for that the administration had the ability to supply. He asked for an infield protector for batting practice, got approval for the money from the boosters and then didn't even bother to buy it.

He got a new mobile batting cage and has left the netting out in the sun in the summer and in the snow and rain all winter. He bought new uniforms from a company the athletic director advised him not to use because he knew they were of poor quality. When the uniforms fell apart early in the season, the AD graciously bought him new ones.

Two years ago, the press box and concession stand were destroyed in a fire. A parent and local company volunteered to replace the press box as a gift to the school but couldn't get the final approval from the county, which kept asking for all sorts of changes to the plan. After two years, the county has installed a new press box, but it's still not operational. This is not the fault of the Stonewall Jackson administration; it is the fault of our county government. Coach Devitt knows that was the problem, yet he blames his superiors for something they can do nothing about.

The real irony is that once the season was over and we saw how bad the field looked, it took us just a few hours of work to have the field to the point where the other teams said Stonewall Jackson is one of the best fields to play on in Northern Virginia. It has great lights, the best mound and the best infield in the area. With some leadership, all the issues Coach Devitt complained about could have been resolved. We are happy the players have succeeded at Stonewall Jackson. Perhaps with a new coach who will lead and not just complain, more players will want to join the team, and they can build on the success they have had.

Rob Bohn and Ray Walker


Keeping Property Private

Kim Hosen, director of the Prince William Conservation Alliance and an influential member of the Prince William Planning Commission, wants the Board of County Supervisors to manage all private property in the county.

Hosen wants to overlook the literal interpretation of the Chesapeake Preservation Act, currently affecting 9,100 properties, and apply Resource Protection Area mandates to all private property.

Hosen and the county mistakenly interpret the Chesapeake Preservation Act, a 1988 state mandate that requires communities in the Tidewater region to create ordinances that curb pollution and runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, to require Resource Protection Areas. The way it stands now, the county can condemn private property without just compensation, place a Resource Protection Area easement on it, dramatically restrict the owner's use of the property, yet require the owner to continue paying property taxes at its assessed full-use value. Once burdened with a Resource Protection Area, an owner must get permission from the Department of Public Works to cut brush, pull weeds, trim decayed trees and other measures owners already do as good stewards of the environment.

Hosen wants Resource Protection Areas dramatically extended by classifying intermittent (not always flowing) streams, dry creeks, empty brooks, ditches and other natural depressions as pristine Chesapeake Bay tributaries akin to the Potomac and Occoquan rivers. Hosen wants supervisors to apply such easements to nearly all private lands where water naturally flows after a rain.

Based on the dismal lack of public interest and lackluster concern of the Board of County Supervisors, it appears to me that Hosen and board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R) might get the power both desire through the misapplication of Resource Protection Areas. Hosen, using the Planning Commission, gets to usurp private property rights even more. Connaughton, bypassing the Dillon Rule, gets more power than any Virginia lieutenant governor would ever dream of.

In the end, all private property owners should wake up and take action before even a water hose is considered a perennial stream worthy of transferring even more of their property rights to those primarily interested in personal political gain.

Robert T. Molleur