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Fresh wind in 'Field of Dreams'
The winds of change are blowing through the Field of Dreams, carrying with them a change in course and a new strategy in bringing the promise of a sports complex, and a public park and a playground, closer to reality.
In stages, that is.
Donny Galt, Jr., president of Friday Harbor Athletic Association believes that the key to getting the gates open and the fields, the park and plans for a playground up and running is two-fold. It means focusing on just one field, for starters, and, perhaps more importantly, raising awareness of what the 30-acre lot at the north end of Carter Avenue truly can be.
“The biggest hurdle for us all has been getting people to know that (the park) is for them, and having the knowledge it’s there,” Galt said. “The biggest thing we want the community to know is this is there for them.”
With publicity in mind, the Athletic Association decided to throw a party, and invite the public, and hope that the community might embrace and support, and come to know the project in a way that it hasn’t before.
Featuring live music, a barbecue dinner, live and silent auctions, beer and wine garden, and plenty of dancing, the Field of Dreams fundraiser is April 21, beginning at 4 p.m., at the San Juan County Fairgrounds.
Along with boosting public awareness, the association also has a goal of having one multi-purpose complete by Sept. 1 and will need to raise about $220,000 to make that happen, according to Rob Cuomo, a member of FHHA’s community sports field steering committee.
That’s roughly the amount required to complete a list of items on a conditional-use permit that’s subject to approval by the town of Friday Harbor, which includes completed restrooms, installing more sidewalks and fencing, obtaining water rights for use of the wells and repair of the retention ponds.
Though the hurdles are many, Cuomo maintains that the goal of having a single multi-purpose field open by Sept. 1, which could be used by the girls high school soccer team and youth recreation teams, is doable, with widespread support. Getting activity on one field should help show off the promise of what’s left to come, he said.
“The conditional-use permit requires the same for one field as for all of them,” he said. “But there’s a huge second wind for the project and we’re ready to get a field open.”
Much has been accomplished at the Carter Avenue fields to date. The association has raised and invested $1.6 million into development of the 30 acres since inking a partnership with San Juan Island School District to develop a sports complex. The school district purchased the land on the north side of town in 1997 through a voter-approved $12 million bond measure with plans, at that time, of building a new high school.
Much of the investment is underground, in infrastructure, and in the parking lot. It doesn’t look like much to the naked eye, said FHAA steering committee member June Arnold.
“What you can’t see is where the story is,” Arnold said.
Development of the fields, at least in the earlier stages, rankled some neighbors, who criticized the association for not abiding by an agreed upon work schedule and plan.
Noel Monin, a town councilman and neighbor of the fields, said neighbors support the park but have been disgruntled by the breach of trust.
“Things have calmed down as far as the friction goes,” he said. “The neighborhood has always been supportive of the fields, as long as they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do.”
Monin notes early decisions about the fields were made with little public input and have never been “community approved.”
That’s an impression Galt and company intend to change.
“We figure there’s an easier way to do this, and that’s to ask the community for help.”