Kickoff delayed

The region’s collective spring fever broke briefly on Friday, but the symptoms of winter malaise haven’t cleared up entirely.

As forecasts called for Friday’s 60-something temperatures to give way to highs in the 30s over the weekend, there was a sense of hurry up and wait for Naperville’s recreation staff.

“We’re already in a delay process,” said Kelly O’Brien, park operations manager for the Naperville Park District, noting that at this point last year, crews had beds cleared out and fields were being prepared for the seasonal influx of athletic groups. “We’re slowly moving.”

Some spring clean-up is under way in parks — but just on a limited scale, because the mud and other detritus of winter leave the ground vulnerable to costly damage if the open spaces see much use.

“Everything’s in motion. My guys are ready,” O’Brien said. “We’re just waiting for things to dry out.”

So are area soccer coaches and their players.

“Winter has not left us yet,” Brad Wilson, director of recreation, said Thursday. “Actually, today we are in the process of sending notice out to our Naperville Youth Soccer participants, coaches and parents, that soccer practice that was supposed to start next week will be delayed one week.”

Part of the problem is that cold temperatures have hampered the drainage of snow runoff.

“At this point there is still some snow within the areas of the parks, but what we’re also dealing with is just the frozen turf,” Wilson said, adding that some parks also have standing water in them. “Really at this point it’s just delayed a lot of the work that would normally take place during March. … It’s a lot of waiting until we can actually get into the fields to do some work.”

Municipal crews on the city staff are experiencing the same kinds of holdup. City spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said workers will begin trimming some trees, removing others and treating some to prevent damage from the emerald ash borer in early April. Also on the schedule “in the coming weeks,” she said, are such chores as storm sewer cleaning, stump grinding and pothole repairs.

“Tree planting will begin mid-April. Street sweeping will also begin in April,” LaCloche said in an email. “We can normally spend more time on tree trimming, tree removals, and stump grinding in late February and March, because of the weather we have instead been busy with winter operations.

“Tree planting and street sweeping are always in April, so that schedule is really not changed unless the weather continues to be horrible.”

Prolonged winter conditions, including far colder temperatures and much more snow accumulation than normal, have resulted in some $1.5 million in additional expense for the city.

Opening day for the Park District’s soccer program is still scheduled for April 5, despite the downsized practice schedule. If that also must be delayed, any missed games will be worked into the regular schedule, Wilson said.

“We would look to make up those games during the season, so it would not necessarily shorten the season, just delay the start,” he said.

In the meantime, O’Brien said her crews still have plenty to do to keep busy, from rounding up picnic tables in need of repairs to opening bathrooms in the parks and ordering the supplies that will be needed in coming months. There’s also lots of cleanup and sweeping to be done in parking lots and other areas that see more passive activity.

“It’s warming up. You’re eager to get out, but you don’t want to do damage,” O’Brien said. “Next week you’re going to see a lot of action.”

Notwithstanding spring’s teasing cameo appearance on Friday, Wilson also is optimistic that the return of normal conditions is a matter of when, not if.

“We’re just asking for everyone’s patience,” he said. “We know it’s been a long winter, [but] we don’t want to damage the fields to the point where they can’t be used.”

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