Saturday, June 19, 2021

City’s park system is a Sandpoint legacy

| August 20, 2020 1:00 AM

Friday, Aug. 7, marked the grand opening of the long-awaited Memorial Field project. This project had been envisioned by many residents for years. Since 73% of the Sandpoint voters approved of the local option 1% tax in 2015, the city has been laser-focused on completing project within the window of the five-year levy that expires on Dec. 31. I’m very proud of this accomplishment, I’m proud of our team at City Hall, and I’m proud of all the user groups and citizen volunteers that have contributed to this vision. Not only was this project the most robust capital project ever taken on by the city, it was in some ways one of the most difficult challenges politically.

Today, Sandpoint celebrates a world class athletic field identical to the field played on by the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders. It allows multiple practices to occur simultaneously like football, soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse. It also allows back-to-back play for games regardless of weather conditions and is even playable in the winter if there is no snow. This dramatic increase in playability, over five times that of the grass field it replaced, is the ultimate reason I, along with City Council, voted to approve the cork/sand infill turf. With such an investment of taxpayer dollars, it was our responsibility as elected officials to ensure that the field served the most users possible and was able to meet the high demand required for Sandpoint’s many athletic groups. This field was the only choice that could achieve that goal. The cork/sand infill is the best option for environmental sustainability, health of users and field temperature.

In the current environment of COVID-19 and the public restrictions it brings, I’m reminded of just how fortunate we are to have such a quality amenity that can serve the needs of so many. I spoke with a family member in western Washington last weekend where COVID restrictions have closed public parks. She shared with me how she would give anything to be able to take her kids to a park. Memorial Field is in some ways the keystone of Sandpoint’s world class park system. It is because of amenities like this that life here is so good for so many. It is no wonder why we choose to call this place home.

Upon completion of Memorial Field I’m also reminded of how we got here. Groups like the Bulldog Bench, Friends of Memorial Field, Litehouse Foods, The Festival of Sandpoint, Durfee Construction, Apex Construction, Avista Utilities, Keokee Publishing and many citizen volunteers all worked together to drive the 1% Local Option Tax Campaign, to raise money for the field lighting, rebuild the Victory Bell, and contribute money, time and effort to rebuild Sandpoint’s stadium field.

When I look just beyond Memorial Field I see the same pattern of citizen volunteerism and philanthropic impact across our entire parks system. Just next door at Lakeview Park, I’m reminded of those that contributed their time and resources to build the Native Plant Garden. Collin Beggs Timber Framing Co. just last month donated a beautiful timber frame arbor for the Kinnickinnick Native Plant Society arboretum adjacent to Memorial Field. When I look out further I’m reminded of all the volunteer efforts by Sandpoint Tennis Association to improve our public tennis courts and keep them in great condition.

I’m reminded of the donated resources and countless hours of volunteerism from the Sandpoint Disc Golf Association provides. Sandpoint has a tournament grade disc golf course, Baldyfoot, only because of the years of dedication from this group and its members.

When I look up the Little Sandcreek watershed, I see a budding bike trail network that exists only because of the long hours and resources consistently provided by the Pend Orielle Peddler membership, which has built and maintained many of the bicycle trails closest to Sandpoint. Then there’s the Friends of the Mickinnick Trial, Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail and their iconic contributions to Sandpoint’s world class park system.

This local practice of philanthropy and volunteerism is nothing new. Rather, it is a long standing tradition that exemplifies our Sandpoint residents’ commitment to community and quality of life. In the early 1950s, the Lion’s Club built Sandpoint’s greatest prize, City Beach. One of their members, Archie Yeager built the iconic picnic shelter pavilion at the beach.

When I look around our parks system today, I see a monument of human character that defines this place and makes it special. These people and their legacies remind me why this place is special, why I love it here and why it is worth fighting to make it a better place. This is Sandpoint.

Please join me for the Mayor’s Roundtable to discuss all this and more this Friday, Aug. 21, at 4 p.m. on Zoom:

You can also watch on Facebook Live through my page, Mayor Shelby Rognstad. Please subscribe.