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‘Just days away from moving dirt’
by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
After more than two years of very hard work, a spokesman for Sequim Family Advocates (SFA) announced this week the organization has the funding in hand to build 13 acres of new playfields at the Sequim Water Reuse Demonstration Park, which is located just north of Carrie Blake Park.
In addition to $230,000 in cash donations, SFA has guarantees from local contractors who will be doing much of the work free or at greatly reduced rates.
And, of course, they have 18 acres of City of Sequim land to work with.
Advocates board member Craig Stevenson said those visiting the park “can expect to see stakes and detour signs soon, perhaps by the end of this week.”
Board member Jon Jack said, “It’s taken two long years and a lot of hard work to advance from a concept to a reality. It’s hard to believe we are just days away from moving dirt. “
Board member Mike Mc-Aleer was similarly pleased. “This project took a lot of hard work from a lot of people and I’m just proud to have been a part of it.”
The cash raised by SFA will pay for a number of improvements at the park, beginning with the playfields. That means grading and preparing a 13-acre “plateau” — a flat area where the playing fields will be located.
Rather than dividing the land into permanent fields, facility administrators will change the fields according to need. One weekend the site may host three full-size soccer fields and the next week it may be configured for youth soccer, or some other combination of youth sports.
The flexibility also will be useful in helping the grass recover after games.
A new underground irrigation system will be installed soon to utilize the city’s reuse water to ensure the fields are healthy and resilient, Stevenson said.
Stevenson said ensuring the fields rebound quickly is important, noting that in past years youth sports teams in Sequim have “worn the school’s fields down to the bone.”
John McAndie, Sequim School District maintenance and operations supervisor, agrees, saying he couldn’t be happier about having the new fields in town. He pointed out that the school has very often allowed local youth soccer teams to use the school’s baseball fields simply because they had nowhere else to go.
“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.”
Playfields and more
The new playing surface is just the beginning. Stevenson said approximately half of the funding will be used to make the park better for everyone, not just young athletes.
That includes adding a new parking lot with 100 spaces along the existing gravel road that connects North Rhodefer Road to the James Center for the Performing Arts. As Stevenson noted, this will be the first parking lot on the park’s eastern side. Many of those attending events at the park, including concerts in the bandshell, are now parking on the grass, a practice he said is environmentally unwise. Others park in the neighborhood adjacent to the park.
The new parking lot should relieve those issues, Stevenson said.
He also noted the existing paved path through the park — part of the Discovery Trail system — will be extended within the park, making it possible to walk a complete loop without leaving the blacktop.
That increased access will be enhanced by the addition of a new parking space for the disabled immediately adjacent to the path.
Stevenson said the playfields project will enhance virtually every aspect of the park. He said those visiting the park “will have everything they have now — and more.”
Credit where it’s due
Stevenson gave credit to the people of Sequim for stepping up to raise the necessary funding. “They’ve recognized what a great need this is and what a great opportunity this was — to have the city step up and provide the land.”
Stevenson gave the city council credit for taking a chance on the project. “They gave us an at-bat,” Stevenson said. “They told us ‘go for it.’”
He noted the partnership was fortuitous: The city’s deed on the land requires that it can be used only to demonstrate the reuse of water. That was required by the Department of Ecology grant the city received to purchase the land for the park.
Ordinarily a project of this magnitude would cost much more — “an easy $1.5 million,” Stevenson said. But in addition to the donation of land, Sequim Family Advocates will receive “a huge amount of donated construction labor.”
A number of local contractors will be helping out, Stevenson said, noting that John Dickinson is doing a good deal of the work “at a remarkably reduced price.”
“Jay Petersen at Four Seasons Engineering has provided “about $30,000 in engineering to get us to this point,” he said. Stevenson also thanked David Cummings and Associates for their help in provided the needed surveys.
The generosity of the contractors “is a major reason we can do it at all,” he said.
Of the people, by the people
But mostly, Stevenson said, the project was funded because so many people wanted it to happen and were willing to make the sacrifice to see it through. Board member Colleen Robinson agreed. “It’s thrilling to see this project becoming a reality. The fact that we were able to raise this amount of money in a short amount of time in a difficult economy is truly a tribute to Sequim’s support of families and children.”
“People really stepped up at a really hard time,” Stevenson said. “Frankly, you couldn’t have picked a worse time to raise money.
“I’m really proud of the people of Sequim for making this happen.”
Stevenson said the biggest cash donation was provided by the Albert Haller Foundation, which gave $102,000 to the cause. The new recreational facilities will be called the Albert Haller Playfields to honor Haller’s memory.
Stevenson said playing on the fields later this fall would be a “dream come true,” but suggested it is very unlikely.
The fields will be in place and seeded, but he said it’s very important to ensure the new grass is mature before it’s called on to endure the rough-and-tumble of team play.
By next summer, he said, the fields should be ready for a very busy season.
Reach Mark Couhig at email@example.com.