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Construction on new and improved Rotary Park expected to start in July
Bainbridge parks officials expect to start the major makeover of Rotary Park on July 1, and have the first phase of the ballfield improvement project ready for use by the next Little League season.
The Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District presented the latest plan for the park project at a special meeting Thursday.
The plan includes changing the layout of the two ballfields at the park on Weaver Road, so balls from the upper ballfield won't continue to rain down upon players and spectators at the lower field.
A new picnic shelter is planned, as well as the construction of a new building that will include restrooms, a concession stand, kitchen and perhaps a community meeting space. Also in the current design: new batting cages, new scoreboards, improved trails, a larger tot lot and play area with a multi-platform play structure, rain gardens and revamped drainage system.
Rotary Park is the oldest park in the Bainbridge park system, and park officials have been talking about renovating the project — with the help of the Bainbridge Island Little League and Rotary Club — since 2011.
At this week's meeting, park officials told neighbors to the park that the 9.6-acre facility is not being expanded.
"We are changing the angle of the north field, but we're not changing the capacity of the ballfields," said Perry Barrett, a senior planner with Bainbridge parks.
"We're not adding capacity," Barrett said.
Park officials said the park improvements are needed. The current setup has drainage problems because of soil compaction during the decades the park has been in use, and the current layout is problematic, though netting between the fields has helped cut down on the problems with fly balls from one field shooting into the adjacent playfield.
"The kids are hitting the balls down on to spectators and players," said Park Services Superintendent Dan Hamlin.
"We've got a safety issue."
Neighbors to the park said they were concerned about increased traffic, parking by park users on a private street adjacent to Rotary Park, and the landscaping that's planned along the property line.
Parking at the park will be expanded, but only a dozen new spaces are expected to be added. Officials noted that the parking area that abuts the Chatham Cove neighborhood will be pulled back into the park by about 20 feet.
One neighbor raised concern about noise from the batting cages, and park officials quickly seized on her suggestion that the batting cages be moved a short distance so the sound could be blocked by a maintenance shed.
The parks district expects to receive grant funding from the state to help pay for the project, which is ranked at fifth in line for potential local park funding.
Barrett said park officials will know within the next two weeks if a state grant for approximately $400,000 will come through.
The prospects look good, he added.
"So far, we're in everybody's budget," Barrett said.
Other contributions, from the Rotary, the Little League, the parks district and volunteer labor, will total approximately $500,000.
Parks officials will need a conditional use permit to start construction. Officials said they expect to file for permits with the city of Bainbridge Island on May 1.
The project would go out for a public bid, with a contract expected near the end of July.
Park employees would start getting the park site ready for construction work in early July. The improvements would be split into two phases, with work this year wrapping up by the end of September.
"Our goal is to have the field done and growing grass so that come spring, Little League can schedule two fields, rather than just one," Hamlin said.
People at Thursday's meeting were impressed with the updated plan.
"Why aren't we putting a rugby field in there?" joked Roberto Gurza, president of the Bainbridge Island Little League.