A local movement to help youths find open athletic and activity fields received a big boost last week from a grassroots group and the city of Sequim.
The city council voted unanimously Jan. 26 to dedicate several acres in the city's water reuse demonstration site for soccer fields and other uses, with all funding for field construction coming from donations and grants.
The formal dedication allows Sequim Family Advocates and its partners to pursue funding and develop a 20-year lease or use agreement for the site.
The council also authorized developing a site plan for the fields but left operational issues such as scheduling and maintenance to be determined.
The decision is subject to approval of the state departments of Ecology and Health and the future location of infrastructure for the James Center for Performing Arts.
Craig Stevenson, Sequim Family Advocates spokesman, said he envisioned Sequim Community Commons as a multi-use amenity, not just for soccer fields but also events such as festivals.
Stevenson and his wife, Rebecca, moved to Sequim in 1993 and have three children in Sequim schools, in grades three, six and eight. Stevenson said he got into coaching - at the time, youth softball - to have some set time with his children.
This summer he began coaching soccer while his wife started the newly-founded Sequim NFL Flag league. Then he saw the problem: overcrowded and overscheduled fields at the high school and the local parks.
"There's no place left to go in Sequim," Stevenson said. "We're wearing out the fields we have."
Stevenson's preliminary plans show a three-tiered set of fields that during soccer season could incorporate eight fields of varying size, from 120 feet by 210 feet for preschool-aged players and one 330-foot by 210-foot field for older youth soccer players or adults.
The great part about the project, Stevenson said, is its versatility. After soccer games are over, the goalposts can be removed for other athletic or community uses. Stevenson also has maps showing 60 festival booths taking up a little more than half of one terrace.
However, to get the fields playable, the Sequim Family Advocates group will have to raise the funds. While the field is open and nothing needs to be torn down, major costs will come from grading and leveling of the fields.
Stevenson said last week that he didn't have an cost estimate. He did say those funds will come from local donors and national youth athletic organizations.
"I've found that (community members in) the Sequim area to be extremely generous," Stevenson said.
Once built, the fields would share parking space with the nearby band shell and, once built, the James Center for Performing Arts addition. Crowding won't be an issue, Stevenson said, since soccer and football enthusiasts play during the day and James Center uses are there in the evening.
Frank Needham, capital projects manager, said the state's Department of Health and Department of Ecology will define the fields' locations in the next couple of weeks.
Interim City Manager Linda Herzog said the site has physical and legal restrictions so it's not a slam dunk - there are a lot of hoops to jump through.
Reuse, recycle and play
Using reclaimed water for parks and athletic fields is hardly a new idea. Los Angeles County's sanitation districts have provided treated wastewater for landscape irrigation in parks and golf courses since the late 1920s.
In Washington state, the 54-acre Fort Dent Park in Tukwila (formerly a county park) uses Class A water to irrigate its largest sports field and boasts four lighted fields, soccer fields, a playground, picnic area, restrooms, trails and other open areas.
So it makes sense, Stevenson said, to use a site like Sequim's water reuse demonstration site to help grow Sequim's athletic field availability.
"Reuse irrigation is the new approach," Stevenson said. "Here we are, leading the way. It's a progressive step for Sequim."
The site won't have lights for night games, Stevenson said, so there's not problem with light pollution.
Most leagues and athletic groups are self-regulating when it comes to cleaning up after a game or tournament, Stevenson said.
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