Snohomish may build fields

SNOHOMISH – The city hopes to build up to four youth baseball fields north of town, officials said Monday.

But that would only bring partial relief for the loss of 17 ball fields endangered because they were built on farmland, which violates state law.

“Anything the city can do is going to be great, but it’s not going to be enough,” said Carol Aichele, president of the North Snohomish Little League, which serves more than 1,300 children with the South Snohomish Little League.

The city has no funding for the project, but Mayor Liz Loomis said Monday that state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, recently told her that if the city wants to build ball fields, the state may provide some funding.

“It seems like a great solution to the problem,” Loomis said.

Dunshee couldn’t be reached for comment.

The city is trying to estimate costs to turn part of a 22-acre parcel north of Blackman’s Lake earmarked for recreational use into ball fields, officials said. Except for a walking trail, the land, which a housing developer donated to the city in the mid-1990s, is undeveloped.

But because the land has steep slopes and wetlands, the city may use only seven acres for baseball fields, said Dan Takasugi, the city’s public works director.

The City Council will vote today whether to have a community meeting Sept. 28 to listen to concerns about the project.

Meanwhile, Snohomish County officials have told the leagues to shut down their 17 ball fields just east of the city because the fields were built on farmland. The state’s Growth Management Act, which protects agriculture and timber lands, prohibits farmland from being converted to ball fields.

Barring a change in state law before May 31, 2005, the children will have to stop playing baseball there. The county also may fine each league $250 a day if those fields remain in use after that date.

The leagues probably need more fields than Snohomish can provide, Aichele said, adding the city now has only one park with three baseball fields.

If they have to move out of their location east of town, they can’t afford to buy nonagricultural land, which tends to be more expensive, for their fields, Aichele said.

The leagues hope state law will change so they can stay there, she said. “The bottom line is that we want the state and county to do what’s right for kids.”

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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