Keeping the Har-Tru Courts True
June 12 2012
This letter addresses the problems the Har-Tru courts at IHTC have experienced from floods since 1999.
Comments have been received by your Board about the conditions of the Har-Tru courts: excessive dryness, uneven spots, soft spots, puddles (courts 1 and 6, primarily), stones showing through and traces of mud. These problems have been primarily caused by the floods of the last 13 years. We've also experienced problems with the sprinkler system, such as broken pipes and sprinkler heads, and defective solenoid valves.
We are concerned that as the courts are played on during the hottest part of the summer, coupled with inadequate moisture retention, the courts will deteriorate and may have to be shut down for maintenance.
This letter addresses the primary problem of the recurring floods and provides an idea as to how to minimize their damage and the cost to the club when they occur.
Har-Tru Court Flood Damage starts with the in-rush of water, which gouges the Har-Tru surface and base, resulting in ripples where Har-Tru is gouged in some places, and built up in others. This is followed by the deposition of debris and silt by the floodwater (in some cases about 6 feet deep) onto the surface before the water recedes. The final damage is caused during the manual separation and removal of the mud and silt embedded into the surface. This thins the base so that it doesn't retain water well, exposes the stone under-layer, leaves tinges of residual silt, as well as soft and uneven spots.
The Historic Court Costs incurred after both the 2010 and 2011 (Hurricane Irene) floods are given. After these storms proposals were received to remediate the courts. In both cases, because of cost, minimal remediation was selected.
The following are rough estimates based on level of effort and costs
1. Minimal $2,000/court
2. Half $5,000/court
3. Full $10,000/court.
Actual costs paid were: $23,000 in 2011 to clean up the 2010 flood and to open the 2011 season; $25,000 in 2011 to clean up after Irene; $23,000 in 2012 to open the season.
The Present Approach is to do as we have done in the past :let the flood occur, clean up the damage and continue to perform minimal remediation. The Board has been working on a long term solution presented below. The present approach will lead to courts with unacceptable playing conditions and require a highly expensive total remediation of approximately $140,000, that is the $10,000/court cost mentioned above.
Covering Har-Tru Courts is a Long Term Solution under development: with this solution the courts would be covered with tarps before a predicted flood. This requires design and procurement of 14 tarps, for $20,000, labor to lay the tarps down, at $1,000, and labor to clean, remove and store the tarps after the flood, at $6,000. All costs are estimates.
Tarp Costs Recouped After The First Flood - Protection of the courts for the first flood would incur an estimated cost of $27,000. Protection of the courts using tarps is approximately the present clean-up cost. Protection costs for subsequent floods will be about $7,000, that is $18,000 less than present clean-up costs. Costs incurred for a false alarm (tarps put down and picked up with no flood) is $2,000. Damage caused by flash floods has to be handled using the Present Approach, as used in the past. The application of tarps has additional benefits to the club.
Benefit: Little Damage to the Har-Tru Courts using tarps. It is expected that most of the damage will be at the periphery and at the interlaced seams. While the courts may get wet, the mud, silt and debris will be deposited on the tarps and not onto the Har-Tru. After the water dries, the silt and mud is more readily cleaned off using a combination of hand and machine removal. The water gouging and clean-up scraping of the Har-Tru will be eliminated.
Benefit: Shorter Court Down-Time using tarps. After the 2010 flood the courts were closed because the flood happened late in the season. Subsequently, IHTC contracted Sports Builder to open 4 courts 10 days after a flood, weather permitting. As a result, after Hurricane Irene we had 5 courts available in 10 days, and 7 courts in 14 days. Using tarps to cover all 14 courts, it is possible to have all the courts open within 4 days after the flood, weather permitting.
Benefit: Savings achieved by using tarps. By not continuing to spend money to perform minimum remediation, IHTC can begin to accumulate savings that can be used for infrastructure improvements. The primary infrastructure elements of the club are the Har-Tru courts and the 30 year old water sprinkler network. In time, money will be available to perform a full remediation.
Benefit: Lower Water Bill once the courts are fully remediated. In 2011 IHTC paid about $17,000 to water the courts. Part of this expense is caused by the thin base which does not retain water. The club has explored the possibility of sinking a well to reduce the water bill cost, but the investigation is incomplete. When a thicker base (half or full remediation) is in place, we will have a better playing surface and lower water bill.
Historical Data - Floods and Remediation
The Har-Tru courts were first installed in the 1980-82 period, replacing the dirt and clay surface. Under normal (non-flooding) conditions the elapsed 30 years would constitute a reasonable duration or life for our Har-Tru courts. Under such conditions, we could rebuild the courts and expect our investment to last another 30 years. The fact that we are in a flood plain and have experienced 6 floods in the last 13 years affects the quality of the courts, and leads to our reluctance to perform a full remediation.
Court Remediation Efforts:
In the last 13 years IHTC has experienced 3 major (over 6') and 3 minor (about 2') floods which have severely damaged the clubhouse and the Har-Tru courts. For the more recent major floods the data is as follows:
2010 Flood: The 2010 flood occurred late in the year and no effort was made to open the Har-Tru courts until April of 2011. For 2011 IHTC contracted with Sports Builders, Inc (SBI) to perform a minimum remediation on all courts. This is the lowest and least expensive level of remediation SBI offers. The cost was $23,000.
After the 2010 flood, IHTC modified the SBI contract, adding a clause to have 4 Har-Tru courts open within 10 days after a flood, weather permitting.
2011 Flood: The 2011 flood caused by Hurricane Irene occurred in late August. After the flood we exercised the SBI contract post-flood clause. SBI had 5 courts open in 10 days and all 7 front courts open in 14 days. The most troublesome courts were courts 1 and 6 which had both puddles and soft spots. Because of the lateness in the season the back 7 courts were remediated and opened up until 2012. The minimum level of remediation of all 14 courts was the least expensive of the 3 levels offered by SBI. The total cost for all 14 courts was $25,000.
The choice of minimal remediation is understandable, since it does provide 'minimally acceptable playability,' but difficult maintenance, for minimum cost. It is also understandable since there is a reasonable expectation of loss of investment when another flood occurs. It is a reasonable expectation that another flood will occur some time in the future.
Present Solution: The present solution has been applied to the courts subsequent to each of the floods since 1999. The last 2 floods have aggravated the situation seriously. Many bags of Har-Tru have been applied and rolled and many gallons of water have been sprinkled. More bags of Har-Tru have been used to fill the low spots which show after a rain storm. Most recently over 1000 pounds of calcium chloride have been spread onto the courts to retain moisture and rolled into the Har-Tru. This type and level of activity will continue until a fuller remediation is implemented.
Long Term Solution: The board and property committee has been working on an approach that covers the courts with polyolefin tarps to minimize court destruction during a predicted flood. Our approach will be to apply 1 tarp per court, tie the tarps together to create one continuous sheet and to tie all of the tarps to the fence posts around the courts. Tarps protect the courts against the destructive force of the water, against the debris and mud/silt deposited and against the damages of the court surface during the clean-up effort.
The tarps will be custom designed at an estimated cost of $20,000. This cost will be recouped after the first flood. Subsequent recovery costs from floods will be reduced by 75 per cent, that is, $6,000. The reusable tarps will, for all practical purposes, end the destruction of the court surface. It is further estimated that, weather permitting, all 14 Har-Tru courts would be available 4 days after the flood recedes.
If this solution prevents damage and is as cost effective as projected, the club will be able to save money to perform a complete remediation. The investment necessary for such a renewal will not be wasted by the next flood. The figure below shows a possible tarp layout.
Minor and Flash Floods Prevention with Enhanced Berm Structure:
The use of tarps is most beneficial when a flood is evident and predicted. There is some likelihood that flash floods will occur so that IHTC cannot respond in time to lay down the tarps. It is expected that these floods will be more minor in nature. The solution for these cases is to limit the amount of flooding. IHTC is working with the township on rebuilding the berms to the north and west sides of the club, using dirt and gabion (rock filled wire cages) structures. An accurate cost estimate is not available at this time, but should be in the $20,000 range.