The Kenmore City Council voted April 7 to end plans for building a sports field at Wallace Swamp Creek Park.
“It’s my impression that there will not be a ball field on that site at any time,” said Kenmore Parks Planner Bill Evans. “The park still could be improved with trails, interpretive areas and passive-type development.”
The council’s decision came as pressure was mounting from opposition groups such as Kenmore Neighbors for Responsible Growth, People for an Environmentally Friendly Kenmore (PERK) and the Sno-King Watershed Council.
“People are very excited by this,” said Kenmore Neighbors member Diane Brennan.
That enthusiasm doesn’t apply to the youth soccer and baseball leagues that have been pleading with the city for more playing fields.
“I’m obviously very disappointed,” said Kenmore Little League representative Brent Smith. “Considering the lack of options, this (Wallace Park plan) was a logical choice.
“I doubt this council truly believes there’s a need for more ball parks.”
Kenmore planners had proposed two projects to meet the city’s growing athletic needs. One was to develop a 1-acre sports field at Wallace Swamp Creek Park, and the other was to expand an existing field at Saint Edward State Park.
Watchdog groups opposed the Wallace Park plan because it would have turned the park into an active-use site.
Other notable concerns related to the effect that sports commotion would have on wildlife and the possibility that field maintenance would pollute nearby streams.
Wallace Park is currently used for passive purposes, and the area consists of fish habitats, wetlands, forest and a paved trail.
“What we’re trying to do is push the city to put a ball field where it will not impact critical habitats,” Brennan said.
Environmental-protection laws would have forced the city to mitigate any impacts to the park’s critical areas and their buffers.
City Council learned April 7 that meeting those requirements would have pushed project costs $210,000 over budget.
“It’s scary how much money it takes to build a field these days,” Evans said. “At this point, the council just wasn’t comfortable with that.”
Smith said he is disappointed that City Council chose to stop the Wallace Park project rather than simply addressing the cost problem.
“They lack the backbone to make tough decisions,” he said. “There’s a complete lack of leadership.
“I’m very excited to see what council will be providing to address this. I find it hard to believe they’ll court this and not have an alternative.”
Smith commended Glenn Rogers and Allan Van Ness for being the only councilmembers who voted against the motion to stop work on the Wallace Park plan.
He also criticized his fellow ball-field proponents for failing to form a strong front, as the opposition groups had done.
“They were well-organized and effective in making their case, and we weren’t,” Smith said. “There has to be a desire at a grass-roots level. When people get an e-mail from me, they assume things are just getting done. There’s no sense of urgency.”
Evans claims the city’s options for building sports fields are now severely limited.
“In this day and age, there aren’t a lot of sites where you don’t have to deal with some impacts,” he said. “We’ll have to continue looking for opportunities where we can. We’re continually working with the school district to find locations where we can improve and expand their fields, but their sites are pretty much developed to capacity.”
The city is moving forward with its plans to develop fields at Saint Edward, but even that project has received criticism.
The proposal calls for the construction of three baseball diamonds with an overlaying soccer field and cricket pitch.
Certain members of the group Citizens for Saint Edward State Park have raised concerns about the environmental impacts of this plan.
Brennan suggests that the city should take a look at sites that are likely to be paved over in the future.
“We might have to buy a property that has trees on it that is going to be used for a building,” she said.
One location she recommends is a lot near Northeast 181st Street, behind the Kenmore Safeway.
But the city has zoned that area — currently a mobile-home park — for downtown residential and commercial uses, which means it is likely to be sold for use as an urban mixed-use development.
Buying new land would also add significant costs to any field-development plans.
“If we go that route, we can have fund-raisers and ask businesses to chip in,” Brennan said.
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