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Locked out!


Some residents of the Haller Lake neighborhood say they've lost one of their important recreation areas: Ingraham High School's athletic fields.

Once a complex of unimproved fields that all kinds of informal recreational activities, Ingraham's fields are now part of a brand new sports complex thanks to a renovation that was completed last year.

These days, neighbors say, the fields are scheduled so heavily there's little opportunity for drop-in play or any other non-league activity.

"It's terrific that the field is being used," said Charles Prestrud, a neighbor of the school. Surveying a sea of young soccer players using the complex on a sunny, late-summer evening, Prestrud added: "The sad part is this used to be a neighborhood playfield and now neighborhood kids have to sit on the sidelines."

Joe McLeod, president of the Haller Lake Community Club, who uses a wheelchair, has also raised concerns about access. He said a turnstile located at the northeast corner of the field isn't navigable by wheelchair and he never got the gate key he said he was promised by the Seattle Parks & Recreation Department.

There have also been reports from would-be users that the fields and courts have been locked during hours that the fields were supposed to be open. Complainants have even included a youth sports team that had actually scheduled time to use the field.

Ingraham's sports facilities are considered open from dawn until dusk daily. From 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, school officials are in charge of scheduling it. After 5:30 p.m. and on the weekends, the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department takes over.

John Bates, a recreation program coordinator for the Parks Department, acknowledges that the Ingraham fields are scheduled for league sports virtually all the time. Because of the demand, he said, no blocks of time are set aside for drop-in use.

From 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the School District is allowed to restrict public access to the sports complex. However, Ingraham principal Steve Wilson said that adults should be able to use the courts and the fields as long as the school doesn't need them and they haven't been reserved. (Children, however, pose a liability problem for the school, he said.)

"If we're not using the facilities the public should be able to," Wilson said. He added that he will look into reports of some of the basketball and tennis courts being locked during the day. Patti Petesch, recreation program manager for the City, said the public should be able to use facilities, including the complex's basketball and tennis courts, on the afternoon and weekends when they haven't been reserved. As to reports of the facilities being locked prior to closing time, she said that could be due to a misunderstanding among staff.

"As you begin to operate facilities, you have to work through your communications systems," Petesch said.

For questions about special needs access, call John Bates with the Parks Department at 684-4082. For questions about locked facilities, call Dennis Cook at 684-7094. For questions about access during school hours, call Ingraham at 252-3880.