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Revisiting Lake Erie Metropark

Considering what I last posted, maybe a fresh idea for Lake Erie Metropark will come with a fresh start, treating it like a new field, particularly as my methods have evolved since I laid the foundation for my course plans there.

To start from scratch, I get an overview of the field by taking screen shots of maps in my web browser. (And, I take that image with me for notes when I actually see the field to better understand its terrain.) The important detail is to capture the scale. My first capture will always be as small as possible while still capturing all of the context around the field. That is this 100-foot scale shot.

In this shot, I’ve got the entirety of the field along with all of the boundaries. Note that the scale is in the lower right corner. It’s too far out though to see some of the finer details, such as trees, which I’ll illustrate below. What I can make out, are some dark areas on the field. I’ve circled the one of particular interest in red.

The field has a number of shallow depressions that fill up with water on wet days, and that dark spot is the depression along the ridge that marks what is typically the far end of many of our courses. Because we generally don’t go much past that point, I may be able to refine the scale and still get the portion of the field that we actually use. If so, that will offer better detail. Here’s that screen capture at a 50-foot scale.

I’ll probably use this as the background for course design. The two problems with going further to the north on this field is that it gently slopes down to boundary brush on the north, which decreases visibility for everyone and that far northern portion of the field is used for overflow parking for big park events. I still can’t really make out the trees, so I’ll take one more shot at a 20-foot scale to assure myself that they are there.

And, now I know why I was having trouble picking them out—it’s winter. The dead giveaway is that long line of picnic tables stacked along the first base line of the softball diamond. This also appears to be relatively recent, as I think the fence along the first base line is missing. The many things that look like trees are not. The trees are dark lines, as they are devoid of leaves. The ones in the picnic area are mulched, so fairly easy to pick out. The trees closer to the field are a bit more difficult to sight, but they are there. On a sunnier day, they would be leaving a better shadow, and, often times, that’s what one can see rather than the tree or pole itself.

Moving back to the 50-foot scale, I think I can pick out a few of the terrain features that come into play when laying out a course.

The red arrow is the ridge line, as I call it. The field slopes gently up from the east border to that point and then drops down and levels out until it gets to the road, where it rises sharply. The west side of that ridge is actually the best part of the field. It’s flat and even. The sharp rise to the road for drainage keeps the road out of play, and a line of trees along it discourage getting too close anyway. The ridge discourages too much east-west traversal of the field, as it usually takes a couple of corner pulleys to traverse—one on the west side to hold the string down and one at the top to keep the string up. On the other hand, the ridge is a reliable spot for a crossover, as the east-west string will sit close to the ground, and the north-south string will glide over the top.

The yellow arrows mark what I think are the pair of troughs that run from west to east, starting about just beyond where the fence for the softball diamond used to end. A corner pulley is generally needed to keep the string low when traversing these.

One last comment on courses. In the 100-foot scale image, the parking clearly evident. That’s where all of the handlers will be. In this image, the pink lines represent the likely places for the start and finish of a course.

The start and finish need to be convenient to the handlers, to minimize the time it takes to get exhibitors and hounds on and off the field. The park doesn’t have any large trees to provide screening, so it’s often difficult to convince handlers to get their hounds out of the parking area prior to their course. The pavilion is usually a reasonable compromise for paddock. The other advantage to a start and finish near the pavilion is that the peak of that pink line is one of the highest spots on the field, so it offers handlers the best view of their hound’s course.

It’s always tempting to put the start and finish further to the southeast, as it is a simple way to add length to the course. When the field was not mowed all the way to the path at that end, that area was too narrow for anything except straight runs in and out. With it mowed, as it clearly is in the picture, it is big enough to accommodate a turn and still gain that extra length.

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