About five years ago, supporters of youth athletics and the city of Kenmore embarked on a journey to locate suitable sites in this community upon which ball fields could be developed. This action was precipitated by the impending loss of the four ball fields that are current leased at Bastyr University. Bastyr has informed representatives of Kenmore Little League and other field users that the fields may not be available after the 2009 season. Bastyr officials are attempting to be as accommodating as they can for youth sports organizations, but it is understood that they have a right to develop their site as they see fit and as is legally feasible.
Knowing that the community would soon be faced with a ball-field shortage, the Kenmore City Council instructed staff members to develop master plans for each of the city owned parks. Public notice was issued for each community meeting and public input was gathered at each one. I attended many of the public meetings for a number of the different parks, and at least two of the meetings that I attended were for the Moorlands Park Master Plan. As with the other parks, everything was on the table and open for discussion, including constructing a ball field at the eastern half of Moorlands Park. Various park-development and renovation options were considered, landscape architect drawings were presented and discussed, public comment and testimony was taken and it was decided that constructing a new ball field at the eastern half of this park was not the best use of this park.
Recently, Todd Bergmann wrote an article that was published in the Bothell-Kenmore Reporter that endorses the construction of a new ball field at the eastern half of Moorlands Park. This may or may not be a good location for a new ball field, but I do think some background knowledge of the process, the site and why a new ball field was not included in the park’s master plan is highly relevant to the conversation.
Bergmann stated that he is a former Kenmore Little League baseball player and a strong supporter of new ball fields within the city of Kenmore. I appreciate his recognition of the value of youth athletics and the importance of ball fields. Clearly he supports an additional field at Moorlands Park because he does not want a ball field constructed near his house by Wallace Swamp Creek Park. He is adamantly opposed to any ball-field construction at Wallace Swamp Creek Park. The park is called Wallace Swamp Creek Park because of the Wallace family history of the site and because the creek running through the park is called Swamp Creek. If this creek (running from deep inside Snohomish County to Lake Washington) were called Dry Bone Creek, then the park would likely be called Wallace Dry Bone Park. The name of the park is not relevant to the discussion of whether or not a ball field should be constructed there, and for Bergmann to make that an issue only diminishes the value of the discussion.
It would have been nice to have had his participation and support for the ball-field proposal at Saint Edward State Park, to travel to Olympia and Quincy to drum up support and address concerns with Washington State Parks, to have attended at least one Moorlands Park community master-planning meeting or to have joined us in a long struggle to actually create and implement a blueprint for ball-field development in our community. It appears that a policy and plan that put a ball park in Wallace Swamp Creek Park was his motivation to get that ball field moved to another neighborhood. This is too bad because the city of Kenmore already has a ball field at Moorlands Park and has plans to put three ball fields in at Saint Edward State Park; both parks are at the southern boundary of the city. Kenmore needs a ball field in the northern half of the city. The plan to build a combination baseball field with overlaying soccer field at Wallace Swamp Creek Park was developed through input received at community meetings and at the direction of the City Council in 2007. It was adopted within the park master-planning process. It is a responsible plan that is consistent with ball-field development discussions of the site over the last 20 years. Those discussions involved King County, the prior property owner and Kenmore Little League. The ball field would comprise a small percentage of the 17-plus-acre park, would address a significant community need and it would not have to become a dominate feature in this park.
Moorlands Park has already undergone a park master plan that has been approved and adopted by the Kenmore City Council. This plan includes the renovation of the existing ball field, a new overlaying soccer field, irrigation, restrooms and other park features. It is a responsible plan that provides good balance to the park users, including use as a playground for Moorlands Elementary. There are joint agreements between the Northshore School District, city of Kenmore and the church that adjoins the park’s north property line.
This park enjoys a reasonable balance that serves many users for many uses. By adding another ball field to the east half of the park, the city will effectively being making this a ball-field park. Economies of scale do bring benefits to ball-field complexes, but by doing so at this site there will be a significant displacement of other Moorlands Park users. Currently, the eastern half of the park has gently sloping grass with some maple and fir trees. Some trees would have to be removed for the construction of a 200-foot ball field and the approximate 5-10 percent grade change would likely necessitate the construction of two retaining walls, one at each side of the new ball field. Cuts and fills of this slope appear to be feasible, but would significantly alter the character of the site. This was all vetted during the planning process.
City Council and Bill Evans recognized that the city has already gone through the process of adopting a master plan for the park and that the plan does not include the construction of a new ball field for a number of various reasons. The plan can be changed, but each park has its own set of circumstances and parameters for what can and what should be considered in the long-term planning process. I am not aware of a site or park in Kenmore that would not create some neighborhood opposition to the construction of a new ball field. This is typical of the process and requires a staff and council that can make decisions and stick with them.
Over the last few years, Evans has done a great job of trying to create a viable long-term ball-field plan for our community. He has been effective in leading community meetings, overseeing park projects and communicating with the City Council. Criticizing Evans’ efforts are akin to shooting the messenger and are not constructive toward achieving results. He is an asset to the process.
Moorlands Park may or may not be a good location for the construction of a new ball field, but when making that decision you cannot arbitrarily ignore the park planning process and the master plan that was adopted in 2006.
Brent Smith works with Highland Appraisal Group, Inc. / Real Property Associates.