Hoping for a walk in the park

As 2001 began to wind down, adherents of three different Bainbridge Island Parks user groups – roller hockey, horseback riding and Bainbridge Island Little League – brought up projects that will impact local parks before the Park Board.

As 2001 began to wind down, adherents of three different Bainbridge Island Parks user groups – roller hockey, horseback riding and Bainbridge Island Little League – brought up projects that will impact local parks before the Park Board.

On the boards

One has already been approved. The Bainbridge Roller Hockey League has secured permission to install a permanent dasherboard system, designed by a committee of league members, after concluding that the system used for the past two seasons on its site in the center of Battle Point Park was beyond repair.

The plan calls for the installation of 60 4-by-8 foot panels – made of half-inch thick white plastic – using some 125 plastic posts permanently cemented into the existing asphalt surface. The concrete used to hold them in place will be dyed to match the asphalt.

According to Jeff Saboda, BRHL president, the system, which is tentatively scheduled for installation in February, will not present a problem in playing basketball.

Saboda estimates that BRHL has raised about half the $12,000 needed for the project, with the remainder to be generated by an upcoming skate-a-thon, other fundraisers and direct appeals for donations.

The league, which has added an estimated 25 players annually since its founding four years ago, anticipates nearly 150 players for the upcoming season beginning in May.

In the ring

A second project, still under consideration by the Board, is an outdoor horse riding arena in the little-used northeast corner of Battle Point Park.

It is spearheaded by Bainbridge Classic Horse Show founder Mollie Bogardus, who hopes to complete it by the time of the 20th anniversary Classic in early June.

Bogardus cites history as one reason for building the arena.

“This project was actually part of the original plan for the Park as you can see on the first site plan,” she wrote to the Board in mid-November.” We would be finishing a job that was started many years ago. The area was cleared and sloped for an arena.”

Board member Dave Shorett adds another reason.

“There’s a huge tradition of horses on Bainbridge,” he said. “It would be nice to see more equestrian people back in the park. Horses give a rural, green feel to the island.”

The proposed arena would be an uncovered oval, 300 feet long and 120 feet wide, bordered by wooden post-and-rail fencing. The actual riding surface would likely be sand.

“But if money isn’t a problem,” Bogardus adds, “it would be nice to have a mixture of Nike footing (ground-up athletic shoes) and sand. It would make it more all-weather.”

She sees the arena has having a number of attractions for the local riding community.

“It provides a workplace for the horse, rather than just riding around,” she said. “It could also be used for lessons, shows and ratings. And there would also be a trail to the horse meadow area in the park.”

She plans on raising all the money the project would require – similar projects on her Haven Farm have cost $15,000 – and already has received one $10,000 pledge.

The Park Board has expressed initial support for the project.

The next step is to survey the area to determine what drainage, if any, might be required. Apart from some small trees in the southeast corner, clearing is likely to be minimal, as the remainder of the proposed site is already open field.

The Board has also placed another requirement: to make the arena as multi-user friendly as possible.

One suggestion is to install horse wire on the outside to allow it to do double duty as a dog run. That would make it especially useful in the colder months, when it might otherwise stand idle.

One concern is determining priority should a dog owner and rider want to use the facility simultaneously.

Bogardus concedes that she has no idea how regularly riders might use the facility.

“I think it would have fairly heavy use in the summer and fall when there is good footing,” she said. “And perhaps we could put up a board to post times when we’d be having special events.”

Shorett, who sees a dog run as conferring a “huge benefit for Battle Point,” has proposed separate hours for each group, subject to change as user patterns become apparent.

Another potential issue involves horse manure, which dogs are likely to eat.

The impact of horse trailers would be mitigated by parking them in the south end of the park as happens during the Classic.

The facility would be named for Elsie Backland, long-time proponent of youth riding on the island.

Around the field

The third project represents the first step of what Bainbridge Island Little League hopes will be an ongoing process that will significantly increase in the quality of local playing fields. It consists of three elements:

* Major improvements to Upper Rotary Field, including a scorer’s shack, electronic scoreboard and new infield sod.

* Installation of an irrigation and sprinkler system for all the athletic fields at Strawberry Hill.

* Conversion of Strawberry Hill Field No. 3 to a regulation field with 200-foot fences.

Conversion of the Strawberry Hill field requires moving home plate from the northeast corner – with its right field foul line of just over 120 feet to the trees – to the southwest corner.

Because the field slopes downward three feet, major grading is involved.

The project would also require extending the new right field some 50 feet beyond the current embankment, which would use some of the dirt removed during grading as fill. One of the PeeWee football light standards would have to be moved.

Plans also call for bleachers and player benches on each side of the infield, a scorer’s shack and an electronic scoreboard.

Intended for primarily for softball, it would have a skin infield and all-new sod in the outfield.

And the trees that surround the field on two sides?

“No one is touching any trees,” said Tony Gaspich, softball vice president of BILL and one of the project’s leaders. “Not on Bainbridge Island.”

“We’re in favor of it,” said Shorett.”It’s almost like getting a new field, so we want to see it happen.”

“We’re committed to funding it through a combination of raising cash and in-kind donations,” Gaspich said.

Chief suppliers of the latter are Fred Hill Materials, Inc. and Team 4 Engineering.

“We’ve already had at least 15-20 thousand worth of engineering and surveying given to us,” he said. “And Fred Hill has leveraged down the cost of sod from $30,000 to $8,000 by swapping services with the soil provider.”

PeeWee president Walt Hannan expressed support for the proposals.

“Our main concern is that we don’t lose any practice space for football,” he said. “We had five teams this year, almost six, and our growth isn’t slowing down at all. But I think that Little League has a good plan. They know what they’re doing.”

He also likes BILL’s plan to develop long-term watering systems for Strawberry Hill, which Gaspich explains will incorporate the abandoned underground bunkers left over from the days when the area was the site of anti-aircraft missiles.

“We will have a great complex if we all do our parts,” said Hannan.”The bottom line is that it will benefit all the kids.”

Gaspich hopes to get the go-ahead at Thursday’s Park Board meeting.

“I’m the eternal optimist,” he said.” If we can get started soon, I think it will be ready for the start of our season in April.”