Guest Opinion: San Mateo County Should Reverse The Tide And Keep Youth Sports Fields In Future Flood Park Plans | News
Recently, San Mateo County supervisors voted to delay their pledge to area youth. Their decision to suddenly withdraw construction of the promised baseball and youth sports fields at Flood Park this year is a tragedy for area youth, youth sports organizations and the parents and coaches who oversee this segment of our community.
Many young people in the region have been waiting for these sports grounds for nearly eight years. This delay of three, four or more years means that most of this generation will have aged out of youth sports before the county delivers the promised sports fields.
For at least 14 years, the beautiful baseball field was left in disrepair, unmaintained and unusable. The Realize Flood project aimed to remedy this by restoring the baseball diamond and adding multi-purpose fields that could accommodate football, lacrosse and other outdoor games.
In 2019, the Flood Park project was presented to county supervisors and in November 2020 the supervisors certified and approved the environmental impact report and landscape plan for the project which identified that the youth sports fields would be the first to be implemented in the first phase of a three-phase construction project.
Last July, supervisors approved a revised landscape plan which, at the request of the public, moved all sports fields to the northeast side of the park, to the sports fields side, saving the famous Heritage Grove and many other trees (more details available at floodpark.org). The plan to build youth sports grounds in phase one remained unchanged. Funding for the first phase has been allocated and was gearing up to finally start construction this year.
In December, the worst happened: Supervisors voted unanimously to delay the park’s youth sports fields by removing the baseball field restoration and new Phase 1 sports fields. Wait, how could this have happened? Why did the supervisors make this decision without allowing the parks department to present the final plan? Why did they remove the public discussion and contributions? Did they even realize that their decision would break their promise and have such a negative impact on the young people of the region?
Community youth and associated organizations, who have been the main supporters of the project, were never notified of this major change to the plan. Allowing this reckless and damaging action to continue is a major setback for youth sports organisations, coaches and local young people. It comes at a time when extreme weather conditions have already had a negative impact on youth sports, with many practicing and playing in places that are inaccessible due to saturated and damaged pitches.
All of this can and should be corrected now. Construction shouldn’t start before the summer. Plans for baseball and sports fields are already well advanced and could be finalized for phase one. By restoring these essential sports grounds in phase one, youngsters could play there next season.
The first phase is funded and will begin this summer. However, future phases have no guarantee that they will be funded. County management and the Parks Department have both publicly stated that a slowing economy and high inflation could have a significant impact on county plans, budgets and funding over the next few years. Add to that the unexpected severe weather damage costs this year and the forecast of continued extreme weather events and we have a grim financial picture. Why, with these financial forecasts which are announced, make run with the youth of our area the risk of an indefinite delay?
Knowing the history of the progress of projects in the county, it is easy to see that further delays for youth sports are likely to occur. So what could be three years at best is more likely to be four years, six years or more. Why put our young people at such risk?
The community and parks staff have put a lot of effort into the plan for the Realize Flood Park project. Local youth expected baseball and sports fields in phase one. All previous oversight meetings that discussed this resulted in support for these areas to be part of phase one. This has never been changed; at least not before this behind-the-scenes decision by supervisors last December.
Let’s fix this. Don’t let that broken promise hold. Let us now carry out the restoration of the baseball field and the new multipurpose fields of the first phase. It’s time. It’s the right thing to do. We all need to raise our voices and ask county supervisors and park management to listen and keep their word.
Ron Snow is a core member of Flood Park Advocate, a group focused on the future development and preservation of the county’s flood park.