Sinkhole closes Kent County Rec. Center’s turf field

 

A sinkhole about 4 feet in circumference and 10 feet deep was found near Kent County Recreation Center’s turf field. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — A sinkhole — about 4 feet in circumference and 10 feet deep — was spotted near Kent County Recreation Center’s turf field on Monday morning by county staff.

As a result, the turf has been closed “until further notice.”

“We’re still in the assessment stage and we’ve contacted our construction manager,” said the county’s community services director Jeremy Sheppard.

“In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like it, but I just want to make sure we do our due diligence. It happened for a reason, maybe hydrological or soil erosion, but we need to get to the bottom of it and ensure that it’s completely fixed right away.”

Still unsure of the cause, Mr. Sheppard suspects that the construction of the turf — officially opened in June 2016 — might have changed water runoff pathways which could have led to the hole’s formation.

“It’s all still conjecture at this point, but things always change when you have extensive construction like this,” he said.

Luckily, the hole has formed about 12 feet away from the turf and appears not to have caused any damage. Mr. Sheppard said it’s unlikely that the light pole will tip over because of its large concrete base, but closing off the area was a necessary precaution.

It’s unclear if any ensuing repair work with fall under a contractor’s warranty.

“Usually warranties for this kind of work last a year, and we’re outside that,” Mr. Sheppard said. “It all depends though, sometimes you can make the case that something was installed improperly, but we don’t know if that was the case yet.”

Mr. Sheppard said he has no reason to suspect that any vulnerabilities were missed during the planning process.

“Before we built here, it was farmland for hundreds of years, so I don’t think anything was missed during construction,” he said. “This could have formed recently, and just opened up during the Nor’easter over the weekend.”

Although Mr. Sheppard said he has no current estimate when the damage will be repaired, he hopes the issue won’t take too long to correct. As the weather warms up, the demand for use of the turf increases.

“We’ve actually already had Caesar Rodney’s lacrosse team come out and use it this season and we’ve seen individual users enjoying it,” he said. “But we have to make sure it’s absolutely safe before we reopen it, we wouldn’t want that light pole to come down on the turf while someone was there.”

Mr. Sheppard said the turf and lighting cost the county about $800,000 to build. So far, he thinks the field has been a “success.”

“It’s been very popular since it opened, and interest is growing by leaps and bounds,” he said.

The turf is on the Kent County Recreation Center’s property on 1683 New Burton Road in Dover. For more information — and to check if the turf has been reopened — visit co.kent.de.us/ or search “Kent County Parks and Rec” on Facebook.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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