Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Community Meeting Update

An entry I drafted but didn't post last April:

At a group discussion held back in January at the Mustard Seed about the future of our neighborhood center, the subject of "Third Place" came up. The City talks about neighborhood "identifiers," "focal points" and signage, but we find ourselves talking about a sense of the place. What we want in a neighborhood.

The city can give us synthetic turf for our neighborhood park, they can give us a whiz-bang new development with rowhousing on our main street but the sense of community we'll have to create for ourselves.

I sensed some frustration at the Community Club meeting tonight. We've had four monthly meetings this year and one special hugely-attended meeting specifically about the Red Apple closure. It looks like, in this economic climate, the store will be closed for quite some time. On the other hand, there is so much opportunity to bring the community together--just look at all that asphalt.

On the way to more third places, during that two, or three, or four year period when plans get made, permits are arranged, bids are accepted, designs are drawn up...meetings and more meetings are held...let's focus on what we can do to bring the community together and use that time to strengthen our ties to one another.

The City Parks Department held a meeting last week to:
"Join us as we share sportsfield improvements plans for Newport Hills Community Park as part of the voter approved Parks levy."

Seems innocuous, but the important words here are Community Park. Not a neighborhood park but a community park. A definition is in order here: a community park serves the needs of the community at large; in this case, the eastside soccer community. By any definition, this is a neighborhood park. It's tiny--just big enough for a grassy field and a cramped little playground.

What is missing in this invitation are the words "synthetic turf." Because that is all that got talked about at the ensuing meeting.

The thing is that the City, with 1.8 million dollars in their pocket to spend on Newport Hills park improvements, chose to spend it on the installation of synthetic turf. This was presented as a "done deal" because the City has no other options for siting a community soccer field in existing neighborhoods. Guess why not. People don't want them in their neighborhood.

Now at Surrey Downs and Eastgate neighborhoods, when this levy was approved, expansions at Surrey Downs include open lawns, picnic spots and a skateboarding area. A "development zone" has been reserved to allow for a community center. The process takes about 18 months, according to "Bellevue: It's Your City June 2009". Over at Eastgate, an off-leash dog area, picnic facilities and trails will be on offer in addition to the possibility of lighted sportsfields and an indoor recreation building. The City purchased properties from the Boeing Co and the BSD, which is interesting because we were told at the meeting that The City isn't in the business of land acquisition.

Understandably, the meeting was heated. After all, Newport Hills is practically dying on the vine and all the City can offer for their 1.8 mil is some astroturf and a guarantee of late bedtimes for the neighborhood kids who can't get to sleep because of the year-round usage of the park til 10:30 at night, fully lit and noisy.

Apparently you can't walk your dog on the stuff, eat on it, put stakes in it for fairs, etc., and, according to recent studies, it's not good for your kids' health:

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