Local News

Hillsborough Man's 'Field of Dreams' is Orange County's Liability Nightmare

Posted August 30, 1999

— An Orange County man decided to make his community more kid-friendly by building a ballpark. Instead of a huge dump, 135 children have a place to play softball. The problem is, the new "field of dreams" is striking out with county officials.

James Stewart's field of dreams is a ballpark that keeps kids from a tough neighborhood out of trouble and off the streets.

Stewart spent two months building the ballpark where an old garbage dump used to be. He cleared the land, cut down the weeds, hauled in fill dirt, and put up fences.

"He just worked non-stop. He got so motivated and he just went for it," says his wife Betty Stewart.

Stewart knew that if he built the field, the players would come -- and they did. About 135 boys and girls, ages 7 through 19, joined the Fairview Eagles league.

"When I heard about this, I wanted to come down here every day," one boy says.

The problem is, Stewart does not own the land he built the ballpark on. "That property belongs to the county," explains Orange County Manager John Link.

Orange County officials did not find out about the project until the field was finished.

County manager John Link met with Fairview organizers last week to lay down some ground rules. "We need to be sure the kids, the league and the county are protected through liability insurance," Link said. "We also need to work with them through an incorporation."

Stewart says he is willing to add the county to his insurance policy and incorporate the league as a non-profit group. Once that is done, the county will discuss leasing the land for a small fee.


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