By now, Kirkwood Athletic Association president Eric Eickmeyer is used to the Meramec River spilling its banks into the nearby sports complex.
Only this time, the swollen river has kept baseball and softball teams from playing games at Kirkwood for an extended period.
“It happens pretty much every year, just not this long,” Eickmeyer said. “The Meramec goes up and comes back down. What happened this year was that, with all the water, the Mississippi River is slow in emptying out and that makes the Meramec slow. We haven't been in the park to play a game since May 21. In the big picture, our biggest advantage is our location while our biggest disadvantage is our location.”
The Meramec River crested at major flood stage right around 25 feet in May and has washed out every playing field ever since.
For park supervisor Craig Nadler, the waiting has been the hardest part.
Because of the scope of the flooding in the region, there simply hasn't been anywhere for the water in the Meramec to go.
“It's been a lot of hard work and, right now, I feel like a mud wrangler,” Nadler said. “As far as depth, it wasn't bad. If I had to guess, the deepest water on any one field was only about nine feet. It's just that it's been there for a month and a half. There is a lot of little debris because the Mississippi was so high. I'll use the terminology — a backwater flood. It wasn't the head water. The Mississippi backed up and there has been nowhere for all this water to go.”
Eickmeyer said the facility hosts 90-100 softball teams and 100-120 baseball teams for league play each summer. Another 30-40 softball and baseball teams were expecting to play tournament games at the facility this year.
The good news, Eickmeyer said, is that the river water is receding and the park may reopen soon for a couple weeks prior to the summer season's end.
As of now, Eickmeyer and his staff are making preparations to play tournaments next week and the weekends of July 12 and July 19.
“We have to wait for the water to finish getting out of the park and then we'll start to get the concession stand and the office building cleaned up,” Eickmeyer said. “There is a health department inspection that (has to be done). When the water is out of the park, we will literally starting picking weeds and twigs and stuff off of the fields and fences and all of that.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we do have a lot of experience in how you do that. We know what order to take stuff out of the park and what order to put it back in. We have two full-time field crew guys and we bring in a couple of part-timers in order to empty it out and put stuff back in. We're hoping to open around (July 8) to get ready for a big tournament.”
While there are workers constantly working to prep the park, Kirkwood AA could still use help, Eickmeyer said.
“We need volunteers at the park to help pick up twigs and rake and stuff,” Eickmeyer said. “If they wanted to e-mail us at kwdaa.com or check our web site, we should have information on the web site about how to sign up to volunteer to get things cleaned up.”