King County currently has over 1000 soccer fields. Do we need another one? That’s the question under review by the King County Council today, as they look at a proposed 30 year lease of the the public 60 Acres Park South in Redmond to the Lake Washington Youth Soccer Association (LWYSA.)
(What I hear from people involved is that this is already a done deal. But you never know.)
Currently 60 Acres Park South is a wide grassy area with a small dedicated parking lot that borders the Sammamish River Trail on the south side of NE 116th St. I park at the south area frequently to run with my dog, and most days see people flying model planes, families firing those little rockets off for their kids and people walking dogs.
60 Acres Park South doesn’t get incredibly heavy usage, but it happens to be the only versatile park area like that along the Kenmore to Redmond corridor of the trail. The rest have been leased to baseball or soccer associations like LWYSA, or are privately owned.
In addition, the park was purchased with voter approved bonds in 1968 as a regional park, which means its stated goal is “to primarily provide outdoor recreation not feasible in the urban environment.” Turning it over to a private, single-use entity seems to contradict the established purpose of the park.
The field would be used for soccer 6 months of the year. Experience with the currently leased 60 Acres Park North is that it’s often off-limits the rest of the year to protect the grass. Model plane flyers report that police have asked them to leave when they’ve tried to use 60 Acres North for plane flying.
According to the LWYSA, the number of youth served by them is actually decreasing. Their numbers show over 6400 members in 1998, a peak of 6916 in 2007, and 6543 in 2008 – not much of a change over a 10 year period.
What really bugs me about this (other than the feeling that public land is being commandeered for private use that doesn’t represent the general public’s interests very well) is the underlying assumption that the highest and best use of land is always the one that serves the greatest number of people.
Under that premise, development of national parks and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would also be a done deal. It’s ironic that, given the local demographics, many of the people who are happy about the upcoming lease of 60 Acres South are probably also against drilling in ANWR. I realize that those are bigger issues that would have much more serious ramifications, but essentially it boils down to the same argument.
Which makes me wonder – when the versatile open area at 60 Acres South needs to be converted to soccer fields because the 17 fields at 60 Acres North are not enough, what are we teaching kids about fair and reasonable use of public resources?
Whatever your thoughts, have your say. Here’s the page for the King County Councilmembers: