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Proposed Little League ballparks raise residents’ ire

Baseball proponents say fields badly needed

Neighbors living near two proposed Little League ballparks say the dream of building new fields is more like a nightmare to them.

Residents worry about traffic, noise, parking and vandalism from the ballparks that would be located at the Northside Landfill property at Indian Trail and in Glenrose Prairie in southeast Spokane.

Little League officials said the city lacks ballparks to serve a growing number of players.

Spokane North Little League is proposing nine new fields on a 34-acre piece of the largely inactive landfill. The fields would be built on property that has been a buffer zone to adjoining Indian Trail residents for years and was not used for garbage.

“I’m not anti-Little League,” said Denise Smart, whose home borders a forested section of the property. “I’m anti-in-my-backyard.”

The landfill was capped in the early 1990s to stop surface water from leeching toxic organic compounds into the ground water below the dump. The city installed methane gas collection and ground water treatment systems.

Putting ball fields near a capped and federally regulated Superfund dump site is questionable environmentally, Smart said.

Neighbors said building ball fields at the landfill would bring disruption during construction, including dust, and harm to wildlife. The site would also have lights, leading to light pollution, they said.

At the same time, Spokane South Little League has plans to build six diamonds on a 20-acre site it would purchase from Morning Star Boys Ranch at East 37th Avenue and South Glenrose Road. The project is pending before the county building department.

Both organizations must raise their own funds, probably more than $4 million in each case.

Proponents would like to have a facility where they could host tournaments.

Spokane North Little League President Dan Peck said his organization is going to be sensitive to concerns. “Our goal is to fit in with the neighborhood,” he said.

Peter Ice, president of the Glenrose Community Association, said Little League should find a more suitable urban location rather than the semi-rural Glenrose Prairie. The Little League land-use choice, he said, is “dictating policy to everyone” by changing the character of the neighborhood.

The proposals arise because youth baseball basically has no facilities in Spokane, and large potential sites are not common. Available fields were built mostly at schools for softball, and are not considered to be in good condition, lacking smooth turf, mounds or fences, proponents said.

Also, organized softball in Spokane has control over the use of Spokane city ball fields.

Little League has grown to nearly 3,000 participants in Spokane County in the past six years, including 700 on the South Side and 1,100 players competing on the North Side and in the Mead area.

A 2007 voter-approved bond issue for Spokane pools and parks includes $3 million for youth baseball fields, but that money is expected to be spent improving city parks for youth baseball.

As part of the bond, city officials pledged to work with youth baseball and earlier this year issued a request for proposals for the landfill site. Spokane North Little League submitted the only response.