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Diamond dust-up

Tue., June 16, 2009

Little League’s proposal for North Side ballparks has neighbors concerned

Neighbors near the site where a Little League group dreams of building two ballparks say the plan is more like a nightmare.

Residents worry traffic, noise, parking and vandalism problems would accompany the ballparks, proposed at the Northside Landfill property at Indian Trail and in Glenrose Prairie in southeast Spokane.

Little League officials said the city lacks enough 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 land that has been a buffer zone to adjoining Indian Trail residential property 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.”

Smart also questioned the wisdom of putting ball fields near a capped and federally regulated Superfund site.

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

Neighbors said construction of fields at the landfill would bring disruption and dust and harm wildlife. Lights at the site would lead to light pollution, they say.

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.

Spokane North Little League President Dan Peck said his organization will be sensitive to residents’ 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 semirural Glenrose Prairie. A complex in Glenrose, he said, would change the character of the neighborhood.

Youth baseball lacks suitable facilities in Spokane, and large sites to build them on are hard to find, the projects’ proponents say. Available fields were built mostly at schools for softball and are in poor condition, lacking smooth turf, mounds or fences, they say. And softball organizations control 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 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.

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

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