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Pinehurst residents seek playground improvements


Pinehurst resident Renee Staton has a dream. She loves to take her 2-year old son, Michael, to the park, but there aren't any good parks for small children within walking distance of her home.

Pinehurst Playfield is a small park (about 1.3 acres) located at 14th Avenue NE, between NE 120th and NE 123rd. It currently includes a playground, a small sports field, a basketball court and a modest shelter house.

As a mom, Staton is concerned about allowing her son to play on the aging metal equipment on the playground. She considers the end of the slide at Pinehurst Playfield to be too high off the ground and the gravel surface of the playground to be less safe, especially for small children. Though she appreciates the fact that at least the playground has some equipment, she believes the park is needs improvements to make it safer for young children.

When Staton attended a Seattle Parks Department meeting in February, she learned that while renovating Pinehurst Playfield was not a high priority for the department, such a project might still be possible through the City's Neighborhood Matching Fund program.

That prompted Staton to form a citizens group called Friends of Pinehurst Playfield with the help of two other local residents, Jane Lewis and Jeanne Gleason. The group's first task was to ask their community what improvements they would like to see made to their park.

Friends of Pinehurst Playfield obtained a $750 grant from the City's Department of Neighborhoods to mail a survey to 2,800 households in their community. Though the group compiled a long wish list, based on the survey responses, Staton is hoping to receive more input, especially from people who use Pinehurst's basketball court. According to Staton, the design and placement of the court may need to be changed to conform with land use codes.

Other proposed changes to the park which are part of the Pinehurst neighborhood's wish list include the following: new plastic playground equipment, which the group believes would be safer for young children; a safer playground surface, such as wood chips, to replace the playground's current gravel surface; a community information kiosk; more plants and trees; and changes to make the park more accessible to those with disabilities.

Another potentially costly improvement, which Staton's group would like to see, is to have the Shelter House, currently used for storage, opened for public use.

While some neighborhood parents like Staton may be most concerned with the quality of the park's facilities, Pinehurst Playfield is also of concern to neighbors who complain that its use by the North Seattle Baseball Association's PONY League program and other park visitors has created parking congestion in the surrounding area.

Pinehurst neighbors say parents who bring their children to the park for youth league games often block driveways and mailboxes and double park.

Friends of Pinehurst Playfield have proposed plans to deal with this concern. Barbara Questad and Karla Justice, who are both members of FOPP and Pinehurst residents, suggest reorienting the parking along 14th Avenue NE, from parallel parking to angled parking spaces. Questad and Justice say this would allow a total of 22 parking spaces on 14th Avenue NE.

Neighbors have also proposed asking local businesses that are closed when games are being held to allow park visitors to use their parking spaces.

Sonja Richter, the Seattle Police department's Crime Prevention worker for the area, has offered to circulate maps of the area among parking enforcement officers to make them more aware of where the illegal parking is in the Pinehurst area.

Steve Birdsall, vice president of the North Seattle Baseball Association, also urges Pinehurst residents to report specific incidents of illegal parking by PONY League parents to him so that he can better address these issues within his organization.

Lisa Kuh, a Wallingford resident who has been involved in a two-year project to renovate Meridian Playfield in her community, said improving neighborhood parks has another, surprising benefit: increased use by local residents, which often leads to a lower crime rate because citizens tend to be more likely to call police when they see illegal activity occurring.

Thanks to several grants from state, county and city agencies which total approximately $43,000, given to the Parks Department improvements for Pinehurst Playfield are already planned. These include a new back stop, dug out benches, in-field turf renovation, storage boxes, fence repair, a bike rack, and portable score board and home run fence. The department hopes to complete the improvements between this coming January and March.

Friends of Pinehurst Playfield needs commitments from neighbors to help with both money and volunteer hours in order to proceed with the next phase of the project.

For more information about Friends of Pinehurst Playfield, call Renee Staton at 366-9472.