A year after transforming a pot-holed pasture into a manicured sports field for boys and young men in the state's foster care system, Georgia golf industry members have built them a new baseball field. The project at Goshen Valley Boys Ranch in Waleska, about an hour north of Atlanta, was spearheaded by members of the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association. The association coordinated donations of labor, equipment and supplies necessary to complete the project in 72 hours.
Goshen Valley has six residences on a 300-acre cattle ranch and serves 10- to 21- year-olds many of whom have been victims of abuse or neglect. The ranch has the highest occupancy rate of any system facility in Georgia.
"The people who came together to make this baseball field a reality have angel wings on their backs," says Goshen Valley founder John Blend. "They all could have been at home with their feet up on a coffee table. But they came out in the heat and worked and now we not only have a baseball field but we have a venue that families are already using to try and rebuild connections."
The baseball field, which was sodded with Bermudagrass and is equipped with automated irrigation, is set beside a creek and the tranquility is proving a natural draw for visiting families.
"It's a very therapeutic setting the way it's been set up," Blend said. "For families looking to reunify and rebuild their ties with their boys this is a space they are really gravitating towards. So it's not just a place to play baseball or softball. It really serves a deeper purpose."
The baseball field construction was a service project for the Georgia GCSA assistant superintendents committee, which reached far and wide within the association to generate donations and attract volunteers. The same committee drove last year's construction of the 60,000 sq. ft. sports field that is now also used by Reinhardt College and the local high school. About 30 Georgia GCSA volunteers worked with Goshen Valley residents on the three-day project.
"It speaks volumes for the relationship between golf course superintendents and the industry vendors that they can come together so readily on a project like this," Blend said. "I mean for one group to make some phone calls and then the other group turns up with them in the middle of nowhere and produces this field of dreams is just remarkable. It's all the more impressive considering they already built a major sports field for us last year."
Georgia GCSA executive director, Tenia Workman, said her members were equally impressed by the dedication and effort shown by Goshen Valley residents.
"Our members were really touched by how hard those boys worked and how much they appreciated people taking the time to invest in them," she said "They really worked like Trojans. I think the project left a very positive mark on everybody involved."
The project entailed some challenges including a scarcity of sod after wet fall, cold winter and cooler than normal spring, said Scott Lambert, assistant golf course superintendent at Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta.
"These kind of projects are also very difficult to volunteers attend due to the nature of our business," Lambert said. "There really is no good time to complete a project of this size but we received great support from across the industry. But as luck would have it, we were blessed with an unusually mild July week of mid 80s, with rain after we laid the sod. The Goshen Valley boys and staff were a great help. I am especially proud of the work ethic of members of our association. Everyone seemed to know where to go and what to work on at all times."
The Georgia GCSA's relationship with Goshen Valley stems from ties between the boys home and Billy Fuller, a former golf course superintendent and now principal of Billy Fuller Golf Design. Goshen Valley's new sports field is just one of a series of community projects the committee has engaged in recent years. Assistant superintendents and other Georgia GCSA members also have made significant contributions to Camp Will-A-Way in Fort Yargo State Park in Winder and Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta.
- Trent Bouts, Tee Media Consulting