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Gopher holes create safety problems on playing field
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RIPON – It’s been a rough year for the Chiefs.

Unfortunately, the season hasn’t even started for the Ripon youth football program. Since practice kicked off on July 23, a dozen youngsters have sustained ankle or knee sprains.

One 8-year-old tore Achilles tendon, team president Tony Navarro told the Ripon City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.

Speaking during the public comment portion – no action can be legally taken during this segment of the open session – he blamed the conditions at Community Center playing fields for the rash of injuries.

“The grounds were taken by gophers,” Navarro said.

For well over a decade, the Chiefs have conducted their practices in the area adjacent to the far back baseball diamond once infiltrated by gophers.

“We’ve got a good handle on the gophers,” Director of Public Works Ted Johnston said. “But the holes they left have settled into large divots.”

While there’s plenty of work that needs to be done, the city lacks both staff time and money.

The Chiefs are hoping for a return to Lan Park at least as a temporary fix. Robbie Orlando, who is an assistant coach for the youth football squad, noted that practices were held there during the first six weeks of last season.

At the time, work not related to the practice field was being conducted at the Community Center.

No injuries, no problem. The Chiefs were thrilled to be playing on a leveled field.

“It’s a pretty good park,” Navarro said of Lan Park.

Council members, meanwhile, expressed concerns over the practice field conditions. They’re hoping first to remedy the gopher problems before considering repair options to the park.

Navarro said that the divots were just patched up with sand as a “Band-Aid” to the problem.

“I know times are hard for the city but we’re here to ask for your help,” he added.