A place to play in Lake Stevens

City official resigns to spread the word about plan to build recreation facilities


Herald Writer

LAKE STEVENS — Dennis Kaiser says it’s time for Lake Stevens to step up to the plate and put all its support behind a proposal for a bond measure to build new ball fields, a youth center and a skateboard park in and around the city.

Kaiser believes it so strongly that it was one reason he resigned from the city’s parks board last week, he said.

City elected officials and staff "need to get out on the streets with signs (promoting the proposal), just like schoolteachers do for a new school levy," Kaiser said.

Kaiser may be getting his wish for the new youth facilities sooner than he expected, according to city staff. And, although at least one council member still questions funding the ball fields with bonds, the city council has given its approval for much of the proposal.

The bond measure, which would be for about $8 million, would go to development of a 40-acre park and a 12-acre park on county land off Machias Road. It also would provide for a city-owned youth center, to be located in the current Mitchell Community Center building, and an adjacent skateboard park.

In order to raise money from taxpayers through a bond issue, a new parks and recreation area would be formed, which would follow the boundaries of the Lake Stevens School District.

The county would own the ball fields, but the Lake Stevens Junior Athletic Association would maintain and schedule them. A yet-to-be determined nonprofit agency would run the youth center.

It’s an ambitious project and one that John Huber, a member of the Lake Stevens Junior Athletic Association, has been working on for 10 years.

"There was a little hesitation there for a little bit from the city council," Huber said. He added, however, "I have a good feeling about this, at this time."

Part of that feeling may have come from the county last week giving the athletic association the go-ahead to move forward on the bond plan. Because the ball field property is county-owned, the county council needs to give final approval on a bond measure. The county needs the city’s approval of the proposal, however, as well.

Public hearings on the proposal will be next, possibly in January and February, Huber said. "We hope to have it on the ballot in April," he said.

And although the pieces of the proposal are starting to fall into place, some still have lingering doubts about the project.

Dan Reichenberg, one of two city council members who abstained when the council voted in favor of creating a new parks and recreation service, said he had questions about how the ball fields would be paid for.

"Is it right to tax everyone in an area" when only some people may use the fields? Reichenberg asked. He said he would have preferred a user fee only for those who use the ball fields.

Reichenberg also said he questions having the athletic association have control of scheduling a park that everyone pays for.

But Reichenberg took exception to Kaiser’s contention that the city doesn’t support the park proposal enough.

"We voted 5-2 to allow the county to set up a vote" on the measure, he said.

Kaiser said, in an interview, that he thinks a bond measure is the best way to go.

"As a married couple, it’s hard for me and my wife to find the time and resources to put our kids in various sports. I imagine it would be even harder for a single mother, especially if she had to pay a user fee on top of other sports expenses," Kaiser said.

City administrator Dave O’Leary said that the council has discussed funding the projects with user fees, "but it’s not an option, so far, they’ve chosen to follow."

Kaiser emphasized that he wants his resignation to be viewed in a positive light, and that he plans to spend his new free time knocking on doors and educating his neighbors about the benefits of the bond measure.

"It’s about my kids and what’s the best possible environment for them," he said.

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