Those who have read my editorials over the years know I am a youth sports nut. If I had my way, we would have athletic fields covering Tollgate Farm and several set up on Meadowbrook Farm, as well. Yes, we need open space, but let’s face it, we need active recreation space just as badly and the latter can have a larger impact on the direction our youth take than plain old open space.
So, when I heard last week that a new field currently being built in the Valley was delayed, I started asking questions. It seems that the Torguson Park soccer field installation has been bogged down in bureaucratic process, and few things get my blood pressure up (Yes I take pills) than bureaucracy stalling a chance for kids to play organized sports.
The Torguson Park field was a proposal put together by the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Soccer Association and more specifically, Bud Raisio. The initial proposal, done three years ago, was to create a field out of an area of the park that is essentially wasted space. The soccer association and Little League baseball were both going to kick in funds, along with a small amount from the city. The soccer association was going to use local contractors, sympathetic to the needs of local kids, who were willing to do the work at a substantially reduced cost. The field would have been somewhat primitive, but it would be the first municipal field in North Bend, which is desperately needed due to the large numbers of kids turning out for soccer.
The work was started with funds provided by the soccer association, but was subsequently stopped by a city official. A grant, provided by King County, originally shelved because of restrictions, was reinitiated to the tune of $48K, but with it came restrictions on the contractors who were willing to help out previously.
So, then the project was put out to bid and – guess what? – the bids came back substantially higher than the original discussions about project cost. So now there is not likely to be a field for the fall and a project, originally conceived as local sports organizations working with the city, has turned into a project with bureaucratic stalling written all over it.
Another sad likelihood is that the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Soccer Association, for the first time ever, will likely have to say no to some kids who want to play soccer due to a lack of fields. That’s very sad given the fact that there was an opportunity to have a playable field ready for the fall.
The lesson here is communication. City staff should feel comfortable sitting down with local youth organizations and discussing future needs. In fact, it should be a requirement that members of the city staff follow up with youth organization boards each season. I am guessing that if a group of staff and sports organizations board members had discussed the whole project, the field would be completed because the funds, or labor and materials, would have been acquired without the restrictions of a county grant. Remember, free money is never free.
I remember distinctly that North Bend Mayor Hearing promised to bring staff members to the table who were doers. I hope the “stallers” turn into doers in a short amount of time for the sake of our Valley youth.