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Can't we alljust get along'

Surely there is a way for teams and neighbors to coexist at Orchard Hill

If we were handing out evaluations on ability to work and play well together, we'd be looking askance at the situation brewing between neighbors of Orchard Hill Elementary School, the city of Medford and sports teams.

Fifteen neighbors have submitted a petition to the city complaining that fields on school grounds are overrun with sports teams, leaving too little opportunity for the public to play. They want the city to limit teams' time on the fields.

On the other side is the Rogue Valley Soccer Club, a 150-team league and heavy field user. It has every right to be on the Orchard Hill fields, its president said last week, adding that neighbors think that the school yard is their back yard, and it's not.

While we don't doubt that the teams annoy neighbors and neighbors annoy the teams, this seems like a situation ripe for compromise. Maybe Rodney King, whose target was not sports fields but the far more serious Los Angeles race riots, said it best: Can't we all just get along?

That question should go first to the neighbors, several of whom have a rich history of conflict with the school next door. Just two years ago, for example, they quarreled with and defeated a school plan for a new bus driveway near their yards. Now field use is under their skins.

We think there's pretty good evidence it will always be something: They live next to a school, a school with big fields that attracts lots of kids and traffic.

Neighbors already have a double set of fences, their own and the school's, separating them from the fields, and a soccer club spokesman said teams try to stay 25 feet away from the fences to provide an additional buffer. Neighbors want the city to plant a row of trees along the fenceline as well, a request that seems reasonable.

It also seems like the city and soccer teams should be able to work together on use of the fields so neighbors have a shot at them. A neighbors' representative could be involved in setting up the teams' schedule. The city could mail a team schedule to neighbors so they know when to expect the fields to be open.

Neighbors, meanwhile, could keep the situation in perspective. Sports teams are loud, and they monopolize space. But Orchard Hill neighbors could do so much worse than to have soccer and football teams and their families hanging around over the back fence.

Sports teams are good for the community, and they're good for kids. We think they can be good neighbors, too, with a little compromise all around.