In October 2017, the Anna City Council approved a motion to tear down the Sherley Park field to turn it into a historic train depot. Since the approval, many residents have voiced their concerns at the thought of losing the baseball field.
Anna resident Josh Gerving has been one of the loudest voices against the demolition of Sherley Field. ”We believe Slayter Creek (Park) is not enough to make up for the absence of Sherley,” Gerving said to the Anna City Council during their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 11. “Even with the high school having their own fields, Slayter is not enough.”
In response to some saying Sherley Field is never used, Gerving said he disagrees. “Last spring multiple teams used Slayter and Sherley at multiple times several days a week for league practices. I recently created a ‘Sandlot Group’ where kids can play organized games with no umpires or parents involved. Local kids have played three games at Sherley and have asked for more. To say Sherley Field is under utilized is just flat wrong. We use it weekly. I have even called other coaches to ask if they might be using it to prevent a conflict.”
Gerving said he and other people believe the city council and residents can reach a compromise and some have even proposed them. “It has come to my knowledge that the former commissioner of baseball approached the Historical Society last year and offered plans for a depot/ball field combo,” Gerving said. “He was turned away. Other coaches have offered their own time and money to enhance Sherley Field and were also turned away by city officials. If this Depot was the future of Sherley, why weren’t these coaches informed when they made their offers?
“We believe that a depot/ballpark combination could be a compromise that would satisfy both parties on this issue,” Gerving said. “Not only would it satisfy both parties, it could become a venue that attracts business to downtown Anna.”
Gerving went as far as to paint a picture of what the compromise could look like. “Imagine standing at the northwest corner of Sherley and 4th, looking southeast toward the field,” Gerving said. “You see the depot where the snack bar is. From the outside it is a train depot, from the inside it is a snack bar. You see a rail car near third base. On the inside it is the third base dugout. You see the same at first base. From the fence in center field, to the left field foul pole you see rail cars in tow, or maybe you see one car and a platform where spectators could sit and watch games. You see a specially designed scoreboard that reflects the history of the depot.”
Gerving said the compromise could be the future site of more events. “Soon after completion, this venue attracts tournaments. Teams come from all over DFW to play at this one-of-a-kind facility. Lines at the restaurants down the street are out the door. You see families together, enjoying their own city and attracting many others.”
Interim City Manager Maurice Schwanke previously stated that combining the train depot and field is not possible. “Sherley Field is a small facility and is not sized adequately for sanctioned play,” Schwanke said. “It has only been used for practice purposes. Adequate facilities are now available at Slayter Creek Park to handle sanctioned games and practices. including adequate parking and lighting. Additionally, Anna ISD no longer utilizes two of the fields making them totally available for games and practices. As such, the fields are underutilized. If you contact the Anna Parks Department Superintendent, we can facilitate your needs.”
Anna resident Lori Wilson Harris said the city council made the decision to demolish the ball field was made on inadequate information. “For boys ages 7 and 8, the fence needs to be 150 feet,” Harris said. “For boys 9 and 10, 175 feet; boys 11 and 12, 200 (feet); boys 13 to 14 is 250 feet.”
Harris said the field is adequate for boys up to 14 years old, and also for girls of any age. “Sherley’s fence is 210-220 feet,” Harris said. “For girls ages four to the pros, their fence is 210 feet, so for girls as well, it is adequate.”
Harris is familiar with the regulations for a baseball field because her and her husband Bryan were both active in the Anna Youth Sports Association when it was active. “We were so involved with the AYSA for 10 years,” Harris said.
Between her and her husband, the Harris couple have been the vice president, fundraising commissioner, softball commissioner, baseball commissioner and football commissioner.
Besides the utilization and need for the baseball field, a number of Anna residents cite a bit of nostalgia as to why Sherley Park should remain a ball field. “My husband played at Sherley Field when he was little,” Harris said. “Bryan hit his first home run at the baseball field, and my son Koy hit his first home run there.”
Schwanke said the train depot decision was not one the council took lightly. “The moving of the original Anna depot has been in the works for over ten years by the Anna Historical Society and the city,” Schwanke said. “The Anna Downtown Development Plan that was adopted by the city council of the City of Anna in July of 2015 also contemplated this action. This year the Parks Board on July 17 recommended a repurposing of Sherley Park from a ball field to the location of the Historical Anna Train Depot. Input was also received from two original builders of the fields, both are former Anna mayors, that the city would be better served by allowing the repurposing. The current Anna Sports Group President was also contacted concerning the actions and offered no objection.”
A number of residents have taken to signing a petition to keep the field. On the care2petition website, some residents share the need to keep the baseball field.
One petition wrote the field is a mix of need and nostalgia. “There are young kids that still play and practice there. Ms. Sherley put the park there when i was a kid with the understanding if the park was not needed anymore, it goes back to the Sherley family.”
Another poster wrote that she sees a future with the field. “I love playing out there, meeting neighbors out there, and I hope to raise my kids out there. It’s our own sandlot.”
“The baseball field is also a landmark and useful. Our kids already have enough trouble finding safe places to play. Our future needs to be put before the past,” another petition poster wrote.
Not all residents voiced disapproval about the train depot. Resident Bill Morgan said he believes a depot will draw attention to Anna. “I actually like the idea,” Morgan said. “From what I hear, local youth sports organizers were consulted, and alternate practice locations have been identified. I think the train depot museum and eventual train cars will make a good beginning to there being attractions that will encourage people to spend time in the downtown Anna area.”