Town to approve changes to ‘ball fields’ plan, but sidewalk stays

“Play ball!” may soon be heard at the new community sports fields on Carter Avenue in Friday Harbor.

But first, the San Juan Island School District has asked for changes to the original conditional-use permit approved in 2005 by the Town of Friday Harbor.

The three proposed amendments include relocation of a required sidewalk on Carter Avenue, from Guard Street to the ball fields, construction of a 1,440 square-foot pump-house and maintenance building, and relocation of the family playground area to an area nearer the restrooms and parking lot.

Construction of the maintenance building and moving the playground area were tentatively approved by the town council at an April 24 public hearing and are expected to be formally approved at the council’s May 1 evening meeting.

But the council rejected the sidewalk relocation plan.

John Kurtz, chairman of Friday Harbor Fields Board and of the Friday Harbor Athletic Association, which is undertaking the ballfields construction, said that constructing the sidewalk on the west side of Carter Ave. might cost about $150,000 more than originally estimated, requiring postponement of the softball fields. Kurtz said the board “will of course comply” with town requirements.

The original plan, as proposed and approved in 2005, envisioned two soccer fields, three softball and baseball diamonds, a multi-use field suitable for football, lacrosse and soccer, a family playground area and a clubhouse for restrooms and a concession stand.

To date, the clubhouse and the multi-use field have been completed. The other buildings and fields, except the postponed softball fields, are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Sidewalks, stormwater retention and other project elements must be completed before a town permit for use of the ballfields can be issued, according to Town Administrator Duncan Wilson. Wilson said that a maintenance and operation agreement between the school district and Island Rec must also be approved by the town.

Although the 34-acre site of the ballfields is owned by the school district, the Friday Harbor Athletic Association is raising construction money with private donations. A $1 million anonymous matching contribution was facilitated by the San Juan Community Foundation, and more than $1.2  million in other contributions have already been raised.

Fundraising is continuing, Kurtz said.

Island Rec and Friday Harbor Athletic Association have entered into a memorandum of understanding that when all conditions are met and construction is completed, Island Rec and the school district will then enter into the maintenance and operations agreement. At that point, Island Rec is expected seek voter approval of a levy increase to cover operating costs for the complex.