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City applies for grant to redo dirt infield at Island Crest Park
Three times so far this season, the Mercer Island baseball team has been forced to cancel or reschedule a game because the field at Island Crest Park is unplayable.
Anyone who has used the fields at the park in the center of the Island similarly knows that when the weather is wet, so will be the fields.
Last week, during the April 16 Mercer Island City Council meeting, the Council gave authority to the city manager to apply for a grant with the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. If awarded, the grant would allow the city to upgrade the northern field — where the varsity baseball team plays — to turf.
“It’s very competitive, but we have our fingers crossed,” said Mercer Island Parks & Recreation Director Bruce Fletcher. Fletcher said they should have an idea by July about whether or not they won grant funds.
The city has already planned for $338,000 in the budget to replace the field lights at the park in the coming year, but winning the grant would allow them to replace the dirt infield with turf as well.
“An upgraded infield to synthetic turf would improve playability, minimize rainouts on the field and would help maximize field availably during the boys spring sports season,” explained the summary given in the Council packet.
“There are a lot of people who use the park,” said Fletcher. Besides the MIHS teams, there are 11 leagues that use the park regularly, including: the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club baseball/Little League, National Adult Baseball league, two Mudville baseball teams, NW Islanders, City of Mercer Island softball league, Warriors baseball, Puget Sound Senior Baseball league, MI Youth Soccer and the Boys & Girls Club football teams.
The grant, which would be for roughly $338,000, is from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which gives funding to local and state parks, trails, water access, state land conservation and restoration, farmland preservation and habitat conservation. The program has $55 million that can be awarded. The grant’s deadline was May 1.
“There are all kinds of local projects vying,” said Fletcher. “Of course, there are way more applicants than there are funds, and there are all kinds of different athletic projects, so we’re hoping that since ours is a park that also has tennis courts, a children’s play area, that will help. We’re trying to tie that all in.”
Many other local parks and schools have made the switch to turf fields, such as Robinswood Soccer Fields in Bellevue, as well as most of the baseball fields in the Bellevue School District.
The turf has done wonders for scheduling. Fletcher said since the South Mercer Playfields were switched to the turf, there has only been one rainout, due to snow.