The Dart: Work is poured into Brookhaven’s athletic fields

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — A weed eater whirred in the background and a bagging mower roared around the Brookhaven High School practice football field close to where The Dart landed Thursday. It was a hot and dusty June day. 

Just around the corner, a worker with the Brookhaven School District’s transportation office had said they were not able to do The Dart. People across Brookhaven were inside working in an air conditioned building or out walking on their lunch break. 

At the practice field, a man who looked like Kenny Chesney with his straw cowboy hat and sun-tanned skin drove his mower diagonally across the field. He shut his machine off and pulled his earbuds out before introducing himself. 

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“I’m Reeves Fernald. I grew up here and used to have my own landscaping company called Signature Landscaping but when COVID hit, the opportunity came up to work for the school district. We take care of the playing fields and keep them playable,” he said. “We cut, irrigate and maintain a good, safe playing surface. We fill in the divots and make sure the grass is cut. It is similar to landscaping. It takes a lot of attention to detail to make sure people will see no problems. We also want to maintain the grounds for the overall safety of the athletes.” 

The grounds crew paints the football and practice fields. From start to finish, painting takes three days off and on throughout the week. Wednesday they do their lines and hash marks on Thursday. 

On Fridays they paint the Ole Brook Logo at midfield and make sure the stadium is ready. It takes a team effort of three guys to get softball, baseball and football fields ready to play and for practices. 

Last season, Brookhaven High School was honored by the Pioneer Fields of Excellence for its outstanding softball, baseball and football fields. Work on the fields is a year long process. There is hardly any downtime even in the heat of summer. 

Two weeks ago, the crew pulled plugs on the field and now they are trying to get it playable and keeping it soft, Fernald said. Brookhaven’s fields are seeded with Bermuda grass during the warm months and overseeded with perennial rye grass for the winter. 

Fernald is an alumnus of Brookhaven High School and graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in Landscape Architecture. He has an associates degree from Hinds Community College in Landscaping Technology. 

“I just liked being outside and working outside. You aren’t in the same place everyday like you would be sitting in an office,” Fernald said. “I’ve done the landscaping design for Trinity Park and several houses downtown. When I graduated from state. I had a job here and came home to do that. My wife worked for Southwest Medical in McComb. Now we are here for good.” 

When he is not maintaining the athletic facilities, Fernald enjoys hunting and spends considerable time chauffeuring kids to different sport practices. He celebrates 17 years of marriage with his wife this year.