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Plans are still on tap for Swamp Creek field

Having struck out in April, it appears supporters of a baseball field at Wallace Swamp Creek Park are back up at the plate.

On Dec. 1, Kenmore City Council voted 4-3 to move forward with putting together a contract allowing for creation of design and construction documents for what actually would be a combination baseball/soccer field at Swamp Creek.

City Parks Planner Bill Evans said the current estimated cost of the project is $510,000. Depending on any number of factors, from final council approval to gaining permits for mitigation of wetlands, Evans said field construction optimistically could begin in late summer or early fall of 2009.

Just as when the field was proposed earlier this year, there is public support and opposition to the idea.

“This is a need that is seen in the community,” said Brent Smith, who sits on the Kenmore Little League board of directors, though he quickly added he wasn’t speaking for Kenmore’s Little League.

Smith also said he wanted to emphasize the project would not benefit the local Little League alone.

“We’d love to be a participant, but this is not a Little League project,” he said.

Smith and others long have talked about a dearth of local sports fields. Smith said he has a stack of petitions signed by more than 1,000 people who back creation of further active recreation opportunities in the city.

At the same time, various local environmental groups and activists have lined up to oppose any new construction in Swamp Creek.

During a recent council meeting, several residents spoke against active recreation in the park, arguing any such development would ruin the now quiet, passive nature of the area.

Of course, they also protested the plan on the basis it would infringe upon what they feel should be carefully protected wetlands. The comments of resident Todd Bergmann were typical.

Bergmann said the city, state and federal governments all have put plenty of money and effort into protecting wetlands and plans for a baseball field simply contradict those efforts.

Bergmann later questioned the final cost of the project, arguing in part that dealing with environmental issues will add considerably to the final cost.

Wallace Creek currently is used for passive recreation and the area consists of fish habitats, wetlands, forest and a paved trail. However, Smith insists passive recreation and baseball fields don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Smith noted Swamp Creek is a roughly 20-acre site and he assumes the ballfield would sit in one corner, minimizing any impact on the rest of the park.

“I respect their position,” Smith said of those in favor of keeping Swamp Creek as is, “just as I hope they would respect mine.”

Local legislators voting in favor of moving ahead with the ballfield were Mayor David Baker and council members Randy Eastwood, Glenn Rogers and Allan Van Ness.

Councilmembers Laurie Sperry, John Hendrickson and Milton Curtis voted against the plan.

Back in April, council killed the ballfield mostly due to rising costs even as pressure was mounting to halt the project for environmental reasons. At the time, environmental requirements were pushing the project toward becoming some $210,000 over the initial budget.

While he emphasized the final decision belongs to City Council, Interim City Manager Fred Stouder last week didn’t seem to think construction of the ballfield is by any means guaranteed. He said he would be meeting in January with councilmembers to spell out the city’s priorities.

“Is Swamp Creek one of them?” Stouder asked, adding he didn’t know the answer at this point.

Stouder also said he hoped to gain as much of a guarantee on the final price tag of any ballfield as practically possible.

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