By Judy Finn
A public meeting entitled “St. Edward State Park Ballfield Improvements Open House” was held by the City of Kenmore.on Feb. 23 from 7 – 8:30 pm and consisted of a 40-minute presentation conducted by City Manager, Rob Karlinsey, with additional input from Development Director, Debbie Bent, and Council Member, Brent Smith, plus three hired consultants; and a 30-minute segment for public comments and Q&A. In a nutshell, the city of Kenmore wants to sign a 30-year lease at Saint Edward with no lease payments to State Parks and develop 3.5 acres into a set of high tech ball fields with the following features:
- Synthetic (not crumb rubber) turf with a 6-inch deep, grated water detention system claimed to be more environmentally-friendly than grass because there would be no fertilizer run-off;
- LED lighting which is to have less “spill light” and “sky glow” than the old halide technology; poles would be 70’ – 80’ high;
- A pervious concrete border and 4 ft. chain link fence around the entire perimeter of the field to keep cars out;
- Covered dugouts, bleachers and a storage structure.
The city expects to fund this through its “cash reserves” if the project is not approved on the “Imagine Kenmore” ballot measure in Nov. 2016. Cost estimate is $2 – 3 million. The 2008 “Critical Areas Report” is being updated. A hired traffic consultant, Kendra Breiland, said based on her analysis “traffic implications would be relatively minor” and that traffic cues would move relatively quickly through the signal at N.E. 145th and Juanita Drive.
Two things I found particularly questionable were alleged justifications cited by Karlinsey for the city’s proposal:
- The State Parks 2013 “Transformation Strategy” – http://parks.state.wa.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/304 – reading through this document it is very difficult to find anything that justifies State Parks leasing land without producing any revenue for the State Parks system. The proposal is to basically locate a small city park inside the middle of a state park for activity which does not fulfill the mission of State Parks nor the passive outdoor recreation purpose for which Saint Edward was acquired. The land as it exists already fulfills dual purposes as a wetland which supports natural amenities; and as an area for scheduled and casual outdoor seasonal play. Developing a city-type sports field does nothing to either enhance State Parks mission nor increase its revenue. Development could possibly offset costs that State Parks currently incurs for maintenance of the existing grass field but that is not yet determined and would seem unlikely to produce sufficient justification. The city claims new ballfileds would result in more revenue from sale of Discover Passes but that is only speculative as revenue is produced by number of vehicles not by number of visitors.
Lack of available flat land in Kenmore – this is not justification for taking over State Park land. Proponents did not produce any information to demonstrate that other alternatives had been explored and rejected on a sound basis. The main complaint seemed to be having to drive to venues outside the city limits and perhaps not having pride of ownership of a hometown field.
Questions about parking, restrooms, concession stands, electronic scoreboard and cost of ongoing maintenance were asked but left unanswered.
A rough estimate of 150+ attended the meeting including several rows of children in baseball gear. Twelve people rose to speak. Ten, including several current and former league coaches, spoke in favor. Two, including former council member John Hendrickson, spoke against. A record of the meeting is supposed to be posted at http://www.kenmorewa.gov/content/public-meeting-athletic-fields-saint-edward-state-park but nothing is there to date.
The city will present its proposal to the State Parks Commission in Tumwater on March 31. Karlinsey encouraged proponents and opponents to attend.