Maple Valley residents implore council to build fields
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
November 2, 2012 · Updated 10:23 AM
Maple Valley residents want more sports fields and they want them five years ago.
The problem, however, is how to pay for it.
For the past several City Council meetings, parents, coaches and children involved in local sports organizations have shown up in droves, voicing their dismay over the lack of sports fields available in the city.
Other than Patrick’s Field at Lake Wilderness Park, which parents and coaches have said is either impractical or unsafe to use, there are no city-owned fields in Maple Valley. It is also prone to flooding during the rainy season, which makes it unusable.
There are no city-owned parks in Covington, but there is one under construction across the street from Tahoma High on Southeast 240th Street. The field is being paid for through state grants.
The lack of sports fields has been a clear need for Maple Valley residents since 2005, when the city solidified itself as a place for families. The city was named among the top 10 cities for families in the United States by Family Circle magazine in 2011.
But according to Bruce Laing in an email he sent to Council member Erin Weaver, the city may become less desirable for young families unless Maple Valley is able to provide fields for the children of the community.
Laing, who is involved in Maple Valley Bears Football and Cheer, stated at a City Council meeting that he feels the city has failed to respond to a survey in which residents expressed the need for sports facilities as a priority for the city. He added that the football program has to share a field with the soccer teams because there are no football fields.
“This issue has to be dealt with now, not years from now,” he wrote to Weaver.
The absence of fields, in conjunction with exploding participation in certain sports programs, may cause some of them to exclude potential athletes, according to Todd Taylor, director for Maple Valley Lacrosse. In a letter to the City Council, he stated that unless something is done soon, the program will be forced to cap registration and turn away players at a time when interest in lacrosse on a national level is increasing rapidly.
During public comment period at City Council meetings, residents have criticized the council for what they perceive as a lack of action on the matter. Until the city builds new parks, they said they are forced to drive their children out to other cities where fields are available. Not only is this taking them away from their community, residents say, but when they do play on the fields in the area they risk injury. Several athletes have spoken during the public comment section at City Council meetings explaining how they injured themselves on the fields.
Maple Valley approved the Summit Park and Ball field MasterPlan in July 2010 which would be built in three phrases over several years. The plan would include a sports field, a softball-baseball field, in addition to other amenities. Phase one was expected to start in late 2011 or early this year, but has been postponed.
Which therein lies the rub, how to pay for new sports fields when, according to the city’s finance director, the Maple Valley is already strapped for cash. With the City Council considering a transportation benefit district to pay to maintain road infrastructure, council members have stated during meetings that those who voice their concerns during public comment leave right before the city’s financial situation is discussed, which they feel would help residents gain a better understanding as to why progress has stalled.
In response to Laing’s email, Weaver wrote that the Summit Master Plan would have to be financed through a bond measure, but after the April 2011 Tahoma School District’s construction bond measure failed to pass, the council believes it is unlikely the city would be able to pass a similar bond measure to build parks facilities.
The school district’s bond measure would have raised $120 million to build a new elementary school, additions at Tahoma High, as well as make repairs across the school district.
The Summit Ballfield plan is estimated to cost $18 million. The city’s budget in 2013 is expected to be $19 million.
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.