Ball fields and more ball fields

Record Editorial

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 2:54am
  • Opinion

It’s time to stir the pot, so to speak, and get some feedback. Usually when I stir the pot, people don’t hesitate to provide me feedback, although some of it cannot be published.

This time, once again, the discussion revolves around something near and dear to my heart – youth athletics.

For years, King County has done its best to preserve Snoqualmie Valley as the playground for the greater Seattle area. Consequently, housing prices are shooting through the roof, and, as I once predicted, we are becoming the home and playground of the rich and famous.

With so little land available for development due to the constraints of growth management, we need to take a very aggressive role in developing opportunities for local folks to enjoy the Valley as much as those from outside the community. One area that continues to need additional space is active recreation.

Our community is growing by leaps and bounds and with the proposed rezoning of North Bend and the addition of Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II, we will have a huge influx of youth. Youth need things to do and frankly, there is little more to do now than there was when I was a kid growing up in Snoqualmie. Our kids need more active recreational opportunities. Wired, large waistlined kids are not good for society, so it’s our responsibility to provide active recreational opportunities.

Active recreation includes baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, football fields, skate parks, etc. Snoqualmie has made an effort, thanks largely to Quadrant, to provide some active recreational facilities. But more can be done.

One thought, outlined several times here, is to look at areas that may be considered floodplain and secure those lands for active recreation. Providing a small baseball or softball diamond on vacant flood plainmakes sense. T-ballers don’t need a field that has state-of-the-art drainage or perfect grass. Many young T-ball players would rather pick weeds or the grass than participate in their own game anyway. Clearing an overgrown parcel of property makes sense and frankly, there are several in the Meadowbrook area that could be used for these purposes. These same areas could be used for additional soccer fields since goal posts are typically portable and could be moved in the event of a flood.

Snoqualmie probably needs to think about investing in a skate park since they seem to be the hot municipal project these days.

I also echo the proposal put forth by my friend Neil Dubey that Snoqualmie should think about creating a municipal recreational vehicle park somewhere near downtown.

My biggest concern is North Bend. Yes, a successful effort has been made to preserve Si View, but it isn’t enough. North Bend needs substantially more of everything.

The Tollgate Master Plan needs to maximize active recreational opportunities. If it was up to me, the entire site would be covered with ball fields. For those that say natural beauty needs to be maintained, ba humbug, you have Meadowbrook Farm. You can hike all you want in the natural vegetation (after hops, potatoes and elk have made their marks) of the farm. The rest of us want more active recreational opportunities and to this point, there is no balance.

North Bend will say it doesn’t have the money to pursue active recreational facilities. To this consistently used argument, I would suggest public and private partnerships. If there is sincere interest, then there is a way. Many local fields were started by private ventures or were created with volunteers. Torguson Park was once a private venture. The soccer field behind Snoqualmie Middle School was a private venture and the T-ball fields at North Bend Elementary were created by Little League.

Enlist our own residents in the construction of these projects and don’t assume that everything has to go to a contractor paying prevailing wages. Volunteers or civic groups are a great resource and I would assume that Little League and youth soccer groups would want to help both financially and with volunteers. As far as dirtwork, there are numerous contractors who, given the right circumstances, would be willing to assist in the project. Many of those same contractors are heavily involved in local youth sports.

The Torguson Park Master Plan is also in the working stages. Push for the installation of a soccer field, but also increase on-site parking. Why do we need to worry about the installation of a bike park when the current mound of dirt that some tout as a bike facility was actually dirt brought in to dress up the infields several years ago? (The dirt was donated by Jason Fioritto to Little League at a time that North Bend said it didn’t have money to improve the facilities.)

Yet we spend money to rearrange what already exists and we have a site planner tell us what a group of citizens could have easily figured out. In the final plan, the bike park needs to be located somewhere else, possibly at Tollgate or even Si View. Don’t add additional uses to an already overused facility with limited parking. With the new roundabout coming at the intersection of Cedar Falls Way and North Bend Way, there will be even less roadside parking.

Maybe the North Bend planning department needs to spend more time listening to folks currently using the limited facilities. Hold a summit with active recreation leaders and community stakeholders to talk about possible plans. Bring in some private groups to see if they can partner with the city to accomplish some of these badly needed facilities using private money.

The alternative to not investing in active recreation is a lot of bored youth. That, to me, sounds like a bad idea and in the long run, may cost us more than the time and money it would take to provide these badly needed facilities. Frankly, I also think that active recreation is crucial since many kids can tune out the real world by logging on. Last I checked, nobody got a high five for winning a game of Halo, nor did it earn a trip to the Dairy Freeze for a milk shake.

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