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Ball rolling on Sequim Community Playfields

The highly contested Sequim Community Playfields is in its final stages before breaking ground.

The 14-acre plot of open field at Sequim's Water Reuse Demonstration Park is set to become multi-use playfields pending a site construction permit from the city of Sequim and the remainder of construction funds raised by playfields proponents Sequim Family Advocates.

Craig Stevenson, a board member for the groups, said they need about $250,000 to create the low-impact design fields and 100-spot gravel parking lot.

They are talking to major donors before bringing it out to the public for more help.

"We find these capital campaigns work better when a big donor steps up first," said Jon Jack, advocate board member.

They've received about $150,000 in-kind construction donations, about $20,000 in cash donations and about $45,000 in-kind donations from design professionals.

Grass seed and discounts on most of the needed labor and materials have been donated, too.

Stevenson estimates construction beginning in late October or early November and taking a few months to complete.



Backyard complaints

Concern for constructing the playfields remains high among some neighbors.

More than 130 people signed a petition against the project and turned it into the city in the early summer.

The playfields were

brought up at city council meetings October 2008, January 2009, January 2010 and unanimously approved in May 2010 by city councilors.

Jeff Edwards, city parks manager, said by the time the petition came in it was too late.

"It's well past that point," Edwards said.

Following council approval, the plans went to the State Environmental Policy Act process.

Opponents sent in letters protesting the playfields due to environmental issues.

State officials found no issues within neighbors' arguments regarding birds and fish being impacted, lighting, noise and water usage.

Officials listed the following points:

• Birds do not use the open space for nesting due to its traffic and distance from water.

• Construction is away from nearby Bell Creek and shouldn't affect the wildlife.

• No lights are planned for installation.

• Noise complaints are unjustified inside a park vicinity considering events like concerts are held often.

• The city of Sequim is providing the land and reclaimed water for irrigation. Potable water will not be used.



Infrastructure details

The design of the fields allows for them to be rotated so that lines can be changed to accommodate grass being grown over worn areas.

Complaints of losing walking space were dismissed, too.

Sequim Family Advocates agreed on adding more than 1,000 square feet of paved trail to the existing one.

The additional trail will provide a direct link from Carrie Blake Park past the James Center for Performing Arts to the nearby Water Reuse Demonstration Pond.

Stevenson said that looking from a satellite view, people could see the worn down path walkers made in the area despite it being unsafe and uneven.

"People can walk the trails and see all kinds of activities," Jack said. "It's combining generations of children playing and seniors walking the trails."



Finding space

Creating the community playfields creates less stress on the Sequim School District, as well.

Youth and adult leagues have vied for space due to fields being booked solid and/ or deteriorating on schools' property.

"Playing space has been a problem for 10 years," said Ken Garling, president of Sequim Junior Soccer.

John McAndie, maintenance and operations supervisor for the schools, said fields are so heavily used, growing grass is a persistent issue.

"It's hard to keep people off the fields so we can regrow things," McAndie said. "Primarily, a lot of our work is just safety-related to prevent things like sprained ankles."

He has partnered with athletic groups to alternate field usage but still finds the balance a challenge.

Garling said his teams rotated off of Helen Haller's fields because of their bad condition.

"We rotated onto the field behind Sequim Middle School's gym and figure we'll have to rotate again next fall," he said. "Haller is just not safe to play on."

Stevenson said without the new city playfields, Sequim could be at a point for going backwards for playing fields.

"It's either cut the amount of users or add fields," Stevenson said.



Players' peak

Coaches feel they've hit a maximum ratio of students playing sports to the number of fields available because of fields wearing out.

Greg Glasser, NFL flag league coach, said they capped membership at 70 students because of space.

"We want these fields to be filled, but when we have so many kids out it's tough," Glasser said.

Stevenson, who also coaches in the league, said 15-20 percent of the students never have played an organized sport before.

"The last ones to sign up are the kids who need something organized after school," Stevenson said.

Organizers agree bringing families to one central location for sporting events is another benefit. Many siblings participate in sports and have to visit multiple facilities in the school district.

"Having them all in one place would be great," Garling said.

He believes transportation would be easier because of the centralized location.

Sequim Community Playfields will be the city's first open playfield.

Edwards said city staff is committed to mowing the park upon completion.

For more information on the project, visit www.sequim familyadvocates.org.

Contact the City of

Sequim's Public Works Department at 683-4908.



Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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