The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission hosted a public-scoping meeting on Aug. 13 at Kenmore City Hall to update the public on Saint Edward State Park ball field renovations proposed by the city.
The meeting allowed Kenmore residents to learn more about the proposal and share their comments and concerns with the commission before the drafting process begins.
“That’s why we’re here today: to know more,” Jessica Logan, the commission’s environmental program manager, told meeting attendees. “We’re doing this process as openly and transparently as possible, which is why you’re here today. We need your help.”
The city’s proposal involves renovations to the historic grass ball field at the park. The grass would be replaced with artificial turf, with lights and bleachers added. The potential project is affiliated with the Kenmore Parks and Recreation Open Space Plan, a guided policy document for how city parks make improvements to parks and recreation.
The city first requested a lease from the commission to make this happen in 2015. The lease would give the city the green light to refurbish the field, then be responsible for its ongoing maintenance and operations.
“One of the overriding goals of that plan is to provide recreational opportunities available to all the community, to provide diverse opportunities and to provide both a variety of active and passive recreation,” Debbie Bent, Kenmore’s community development director, said of the open space plan. She added that the ball field presented active recreation possibilities.
But due to reservations regarding impacts to traffic, recreation and the environment, an environmental impact statement, or EIS, was requested by the commission
Usually, a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist, which compiles environmental information about a proposal for decision makers, is used. But after looking at the complexities of the property, whether related to parking availability or to the ball field-adjacent wetlands, the commission decided that a SEPA checklist wouldn’t be enough to ultimately move them to approve a long-term lease with the city.
“During the last review process, we identified a number of potential impacts that brought enough to concern to us and the city,” Logan said. “We decided we needed to do a much more thorough analysis than what is provided by a SEPA checklist.”
The commission is the lead agency for the EIS process. The procedure has six steps: scoping, preparation of the draft EIS, issuance of the draft EIS (which entails another public meeting), preparation of final EIS, issuance of final EIS and then an agency decision on the proposed action. The final step, like parts one and three of the procedure, also comes with an option for the public to comment.
Logan said that a common misconception around the EIS process is that it’s like a permit process. She said it’s more accurate to liken it to a disclosure process, as the finished document covers a range of alternatives to a proposal and what its impacts would be.
Five alternatives were shared at the meeting: artificial turf with and without lighting; restored natural turf with and without lighting; and the potential for there to be no action. The environmental impacts of each possibility would be covered in the EIS.
Relevant mitigation measures would additionally be discussed throughout the EIS process.
The EIS process begins with scoping, which Logan said was fulfilled by the public meaning. The purpose of the scoping process is to begin an analysis that not only reviews the potential environmental impacts of a project but also gives the public an avenue to voice what they’re most concerned about.
Through this process, the commission will then able to narrow down which impacts are most relevant and worthy of scrutiny and which are nonexistent, making the finished statement concise and easy to understand.
“They don’t want these long, burdensome, 1,000-page documents,” Logan said of the statement’s writers. “They want documents that people will read and that are relevant — that decision makers will actually use to base their decisions off of. One of the ways we do that is reach out to the public — the people who know the resource the best and the people who are most likely to experience the impacts of the proposal.”
After the opening remarks made at the meeting, the public was encouraged to write down their comments and questions on submittable cards, and learn more information about the proposal via poster boards set up in the council chambers.
Among them was an interactive poster board that asked the comment to put a sticker on the impacts they were most concerned about. On it, there was especially an emphasis on natural environment features, like water and plants and animals, and on built environment features, like environmental health, relationship to existing land use and transportation and parking.
Logan said there was no exact timeline of how the proposal will unfold at the time of the meeting. The draft-writing process for the EIS will begin immediately after the gathering, but how long it will take is contingent on what the research process looks like.
Once an initial draft is completed, there will be another opportunity for the public to share their thoughts on the project. Whereas the Aug. 13 meeting was limited to submitting written comments, at the followup meeting residents will be able to make verbal testimonies. There will also be a 30-day comment period for community members, according to Logan.
When a final statement is completed, the commission will use the information gathered as the basis for a decision as to whether or not to lease the field in the long term to the city. The commission hopes that the Aug. 13 meeting illuminates issues that it might not have uncovered.
“That doesn’t mean there are concerns we haven’t thought of,” Logan said. “That’s why you’re here.”
Anyone with questions about the project can contact Bryan Hampson with development services for the city of Kenmore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-398-8900.
Learn more about the history of this project at kenmorewa.gov/athletic-field-saint-edward.