I have been playing volleyball for the past five years. When the weather is suitable, I prefer practicing outside. During the summer, I was searching for a court to practice at, and I noticed that there were no usable volleyball courts in the West Windsor community.
The volleyball courts at Mercer County Park were either full or in unusable condition. After realizing that the lack of usable volleyball courts was an issue in the community, I believed that resolving this issue could be my Girl Scout Gold Award project.
I reached out to Dan Dobromilsky, who is West Windsor’s landscape architect, and asked if I could build a volleyball court at the West Windsor Community Park as part of my Girl Scouts project.
He said that instead of building a completely new volleyball court, I could renovate the existing sand volleyball court at Duck Pond Park. At that time, I didn’t even know that there was a volleyball court at DPP, because it was mostly covered in weeds.
Taking this into consideration, we visited the DPP volleyball court and after looking at the condition, I decided to pursue the renovation of the sand volleyball court.
The first thing I did was visit the court at various times to analyze its condition from weather exposure. I noticed a few prominent issues: the excessive number of weeds, the water stagnation and the dispersion of sand all around the court. Of these, I was not sure about the cause of the water stagnation.
I reached out to Mr. Dobromilsky and asked him if there was already a drain system for the court. When he told me there was not, I knew that installing a drain system would be my solution.
To get rid of the weeds, I planned to use weed-removal tools. As for the sand dispersion, I planned to install a border to keep the sand within the court’s boundaries and prevent any additional grass from growing.
I created a detailed outline of the renovation plan and met with Mr. Dobromilsky and his team through Zoom. Once we agreed on everything, it was time to begin researching products.
I began by searching for various kinds of drain systems on the internet. Eventually I decided on the Hydraway drain system and reached out to the manufacturer to learn more about the product.
Based on my research, the Hydraway system seemed to be the best solution for the court, because the speed at which the Hydraway drains water is designed to be much more efficient compared to a perforated pipe. After discussing the amount of Hydraway needed for the sand volleyball court, the installation process, and other specific details, I requested a quote.
I noticed that the drain system was quite expensive, so I requested a non-profit discount from Girl Scouts and sent them the Girl Scout tax-exemption form. Fortunately, the manufacturer was willing to give a discount for the Girl Scouts project. Once we had finalized the discounted price, I conveyed the information to the township, and they agreed to use the system.
The next step was to research products for the court border. There were a few options—one of them being a rubber border, meant for sports and recreational purposes. However, when I contacted the manufacturer, the quote surpassed the budget I had for this project. Even after receiving a Girl Scout discount and tax exemption, the price was still extremely high.
I continued to search for other and eventually, I came across a product called Edge Guard. I contacted the manufacturer and received both a discount and tax exemption. I conveyed the information to the township and they agreed to use Edge Guard for the court border.
During the time I had spent researching, I read the installation process details and saw that I needed to purchase 2”x12”x12’ treated lumber planks to install around the perimeter of the court before I could install the Edge Guard on top of the lumber.
I went to Lowe’s to look at the lumber and calculate an approximate price for the quantity of lumber needed based on the volleyball court’s dimensions. A salesperson at the ProDesk understood the needs of my project and suggested cutting the 2”x12”x12 into two pieces so that it would be easier to carry. Once I received a quote for the lumber, I sent all the quotes that I had received to Mr. Dobromilsky.
At that point, I was ready to discuss all the research and planning I had done with the township. I met with Mr. Dobromilsky and his team and finalize the tasks. After our conversation, I updated the renovation plan and reached out to the manufacturers of the Hydraway, Edge Guard and Lowe’s to place purchase orders.
While preparing the final quotes and purchase orders for all the products needed, I created a Google form to secure volunteers to sign up to help with the cleanup of all the plants. I posted this Google form on Instagram and Facebook, and even sent it to my school volleyball team and coaches in hopes that people would sign up. I eventually got responses and was eager to begin the work.
We purchased a few rakes, shovels and a wheelbarrow to remove weeds. Equipped with the necessary tools to perform the clean-up work, the volunteers and I gathered at the DPP volleyball court ready to begin!
Staring at the weed-covered court, we didn’t know where to start. There were weeds everywhere, and dry, muddy grass covered most of the court. We began by digging circles around every tall weed we saw and tried to scoop them out. As we scooped the weeds out, we noticed large chunks of sand were attached to each weed. We didn’t want to just throw away the sand, so we had to find a way to save as much of it as possible. We shook off the weed root and gently removed all the sand we could, ensuring that it fell back into the hole we dug. Since this process took a long time, it took a few days to complete.
An adult volunteer mentioned that loosening the sand wasn’t a good idea because the weed and grass seeds stuck to the sand would be mixed with sand and grow back again. Unfortunately, we weren’t aware of this before and had started to realize our mistake after noticing that weeds were growing back and spreading around quickly after cleanup. By this point, we had tried to remove the old and new plants and weeds repeatedly to the point where we were getting frustrated. Additionally, the dry ground made it very hard to dig and take the weeds out.
It also rained almost every weekend, which slowed down the renovation process. Due to the rain, we were unable to work at the wet court because there were many puddles and the weeds stuck to the mud even more. Unfortunately, I had to cancel multiple volunteering sessions and lost a lot of volunteers in the process due to their unavailability to attend the rescheduled dates.
We did some research and rented a tiller machine to loosen the compact soil and make it easy to remove the weeds. After we were done, the court looked much better.
While this completed our initial clean-up, the regrowth of the weeds became an instant issue. I reached out to Mr. Dobromilsky and asked how to proceed, and he suggested that we continue working on the rest of the renovation, because the township was going to take care of the problem by eventually applying weed treatment.
When it came to the installation of the Hydraway Drain System, I drew a couple of different diagrams, one for the placements for the trenches and another one for the slope for the trenches. Drawing out the diagram took many attempts as there were multiple calculations and planning necessary.
Once we had marked all of the trench lines, it was time to begin digging the trenches. Initially, the township said that they would use trench-digging machinery to complete this task. However, when they tried to do this, it didn’t work because the machinery caused a lot of collateral damage to the court due to the constant rain.
The township suggested we hand dig the parallel trenches in the middle of the court and said that they could dig the deep perpendicular trench that connects all the parallel trenches. Like our struggles with the clean-up process, the rain was once again a hindrance to our work. Although a couple of trenches had been dug, there was no external drain pit for the water to collect in. Due to this, the water remained stagnant in the trenches for several days until it evaporated.
Eventually, the township dug an underground hole from the perpendicular trench to the other side of the sidewalk. Next, they inserted a PVC pipe to carry the water away from the court. Then, they dug a drain pit at the end of the PVC pipe and put gravel in it.
The next step was to create the slope inside the trenches. For the Hydraway to work at its best, the trench should slope one inch for every two feet. A ruler and measuring tape were used to measure the depth of the trench while creating the slope inside the trench. After sloping the trenches, we waited for the rain to come again to make sure that water would flow throughout the trenches and drain properly. After finding that this was successful, we laid out the Hydraway in the two outside trenches, connected them, and laid sand preservation fabric on top to protect the Hydraway from getting clogged with mud and fine sand. Then, we closed these two trenches. In the following week, we hand-dug the remaining three trenches inside the court and repeated the process of laying down the Hydraway and sand preservation fabric in each trench. Once we completed the installation of the Hydraway drain system for all five trenches, we closed the trenches and leveled the court with the existing sand.
The next steps were the treated lumber and Edge Guard court border. To begin, I marked the court border using stakes and caution tape. Lowe’s delivered the treated lumber at the park. Next, it was time to install the court border. To do this, the treated lumber planks needed to be installed around the perimeter of the court before the Edge Guard plastic capping could be screwed on top of the lumber.
The township installed the treated lumber and then added 4 inches of sand inside the court until it reached the height of the lumber.
The next step was to install the Edge Guard. When we had initially ordered the Edge Guard, we asked the manufacturer to cut the corners off some pieces so that we could connect them over the corner joints of the treated lumber planks during installation.
The first thing we did was lay out all of the corner cut pieces of Edge Guard pieces on all four corners of the court. Then, we began placing all of the other pieces onto the lumber. We overlapped each piece by about three inches to make sure the wood was properly covered. However, in the corner pieces, we saw that the insides of the cut corners were touching even though the rest of the cut wasn’t lining up over the wood. Because of this, there was an obvious gap.
To close that corner gap, we decided to put another layer of six-inch edge pieces. We manually cut and shaped it to make sure it covered the lumber in the corners. Once they lined up, we were able to screw them in on top of the existing corner pieces. Finally, we screwed in all of the pieces and made sure that the Edge Guard is securely attached to the lumber. The township then put up the net that they had, which completed the renovation of the sand volleyball court at Duck Pond Park.
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I would like to sincerely thank the West Windsor Township for trusting me and allowing me to renovate the sand volleyball court at Duck Pond Park as part of my Girl Scouts Gold Award project. I learned so much throughout the entire project, whether it was researching for products, drawing diagrams, doing the actual physical work at the court, or managing unforeseen problems and issues.
I would also like to thank the people at West Windsor Township for all their help throughout the project. I would like to thank Mr. Dan Dobromilsky for being my project advisor and guiding me, and for taking the time to respond to my emails and provide feedback and suggestions.
I have been using the court and visited the court after it has rained, and I’ve noticed that the drain system seems to be working perfectly. There is no water stagnation anymore!
Overall, completing this renovation project was a really rewarding experience, and I am glad that I was able to bring this court back to life for the community to use. I have heard from others that it’s already being used by the community! Despite the weather conditions and other obstacles that we faced; I am very happy we were able to successfully complete the sand volleyball court renovation as a team.
Tanusri Kumar is a member of Girl Scout Troop 70054 and a sophomore at WW-P High School South. To see a version of this story with more photos, go to communitynews.org.