November 30, 1998
The meeting represented the passion this community has for its kids. Many of us feel that parks for our families are more important than weeds. This is only partly about soccer fields. The big picture is much more. Baseball fields, soccer fields, open space: land we can use, this is what is at stake.
We are asking for the right to give our kids a place to play. Let me help Mr. Tanksley with some of the facts he didn't quite get straight.
The meeting only got raucous when the HHA Board would not allow the membership to exercise its right to participate in the meeting. I have never heard of an annual meeting that did not allow input from the floor. What is an annual meeting for if not to allow dialogue and input from the membership? For many years now, the Board has said it represents the membership, but it has never asked the membership its opinion on ball fields in the valley. In fact, it has blocked the polling of its membership and has never allowed a vote on the subject.
Play fields in our community are in short supply. Why would Northshore kids go to outside communities as was suggested? Our Sammamish Valley has a much higher concentration of golf facilities than it does ball fields. There is nothing wrong with golf courses, but try and take the family down there to throw the Frisbee one afternoon. An aerial photograph shown at the meeting was proof that this so-called high concentration of soccer fields just doesn't exist.
The photo also graphically showed that mining is the primary use of our farm lands in the Sammamish Valley. Some call it turf farming, but you can imagine how much of our soil goes with each scalping (excuse me, harvest of grass). Ball fields would have a much lower impact on the soil in the valley.
Mr. Tanksley mentions that farmers are hesitant to invest because of long-term uncertainty. Believe me, if they could farm the land profitably, they would farm it. He also talks about growing vegetables, as if the Valley is some sort of bread basket feeding our families.
The facts are that there are more flowers grown in our valley than food. The facts are that our country sends millions of tons of food each year to other countries because we grow more food than we can possibly eat. Just last week, the U. S. Government announced a plan to give aid in the form of surplus wheat to Russia to help in their time of famine.
Another fallacy that was propagated by the HHA Board is the availability of other land. They mentioned the "Field of Dreams" land. They didn't mention this was a small piece of property with wetlands issues. It was also a piece of land that wouldn't grow grass. Where should fields go? Where grass grows! And in the community where it is needed.
In one sentence, Mr. Tanksley suggests "spreading the fields into outlying communities;" in another he condemns driving "across country during rush hour" to get to a practice or game. Which way do you want it?
Mr. Tanksley credits the board with a calm and levelheaded manner. Hardly! The HHA president and vice president got into a shoving match over who got to shout his commentary at the membership. Another time the president angrily shouted at the dues-paying membership, "If you don't like it, start your own group."
IT IS our group! Interesting that Mr. Tanksley gives all the credit to the board, but doesn't mention that he is on it.
The big picture that should be addressed is what is best for our kids, families, and community. Ball fields and open space, or weed fields? You choose: the opportunity to have quality community property in an area ideally suited for it and desperately needing it.
Woodinville isn't getting smaller; it isn't staying the same. We may not have another opportunity like this to serve our kids so well. The HHA Board hasn't mentioned that a good section of the land proposed is already zoned residential and will have houses on it if we don't secure it for the whole community.
We absolutely need to protect our valley and the growth of our kids. These ball fields do both. If in years to come we need food worse than we need ball fields, then we can plow it under.
If our kids don't have a positive and healthy means of recreation, what message are we sending them? Are weeds and idealism more important than our second graders in ponytails running around second base, more important than our fifth graders learning teamwork and cooperation while strengthening their young bodies?
Let's get to the bottom line: it's about kids!
Dennis Gunnell, HHA member