This large chunk of concrete was just one of the several pieces pulled from the ground at the soccer field at Elkhorn’s Sunset Park Oct. 5. Heavy grade metal wire protruding from the stone gives it away as rubble from a construction site.

By Chelsey Hinsenkamp

SLN Staff

Sunset Park, or at least most of it, is built on a clean fill – a dump site for things like rubble from construction sites – which, according to City Administrator Sam Tapson, is actually not that unusual.

However, safety hazards can arise when the ground shifts since the fill is not compacted, causing pieces of the rubble to surface.

The city recently received a complaint from Elkhorn Soccer Club President Mike Recklies who said he noticed concrete sticking out of the ground during a recent club practice.

Recklies expressed concern that the concrete that made its way to the surface near the northwest corner of the park in the soccer club’s practice field, may only be “the cap” to a bigger problem.

The concrete was removed by city workers on Oct. 5 after Recklies brought it to the city officials’ attention, but said he wants them to develop a plan to address the problem.

Recklies said he would be comfortable with the situation “as long as they have a plan of action to deal with it… whether it be to excavate or keep an eye on it, something of that nature.”

“Some of these pieces appear to be old curb and gutter from a street that had been ripped up,” Recklies wrote in an email to city officials.

And according to Tapson, that’s exactly what it is.

“The city acquired a parcel of land… and it was an area that needed to be filled,” Tapson explained. “It was used as a disposal site for street construction projects,” he added.

In fact, Tapson speculates that it might be pieces of the old West Walworth Street, and possibly even parts of North Lincoln before the two were redone.

“It’s not compacted, it’s just simply pieces of gutter and concrete and the like,” he said.

Tapson added that using fill to raise land is typical but said he was unsure if using such material to build recreational areas is common.

Reversing the project that took place before his tenure is something that Tapson said probably just isn’t feasible.

He said just to investigate how much debris is actually there would be costly in itself, and then to attempt to remove it all, would be “very cost prohibitive.”

“I don’t know how much debris is there, but if you’re bringing the elevation up even three feet, you’re going to have a lot of debris,” Tapson explained.

“Do you want to spend six figures or more on that?” he questioned.

Recklies pointed out that kids from the soccer club use the field Monday through Thursday in the evenings and that the team practices there as a whole once a week.

He pointed out that other groups use the fields, including softball and baseball players.

“It’s a huge danger not just to my kids but the city’s kids in general,” Recklies said.

According to Tapson, up until now, the city has simply monitored the park for such issues.

“There have been isolated cases, I think, where some of this concrete has surfaced and we’ve taken care of it on an as needed basis,” Tapson said.

The Common Council addressed the issue raised by Recklies Oct. 22 and decided to have committee members hash it out. Tapson said the committee would have to decide between three options – to stop using the field, continue to monitor it or dig it up and start over.

Recklies said he doesn’t think stopping use is a viable option.

“It’s been park space for so long that kids are just going to gravitate toward that area,” he said.

He added that the loss of such space isn’t fair to the community.

“I would hope they would do something to replace that park space,” he said.

Tapson said he doesn’t mean to minimize the safety concern of citizens like Recklies, but that “If this occurs every two years, it’s not a big deal.”


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