Recently, San Mateo County supervisors voted to delay their promise to area youth. Their decision to suddenly remove the promised baseball and youth sports fields at Flood Park from being constructed this year is a tragedy to area youth, youth sports organizations, and the parents and coaches that mentor this segment of our community.
Many area youth have waited for nearly eight years for these sport fields. This delay of three, four or more years means most of this generation will have aged out of youth sports before the county delivers on the promised sport fields.
For at least 14 years, the once beautiful baseball field has been left in disrepair, unmaintained and unusable. The Realize Flood Project was to remedy that by restoring the baseball field and adding multi-use fields that could support soccer, lacrosse, and other open-field play.
In 2019, county supervisors were presented the Flood Park project, and in November 2020 supervisors certified and approved the project's environmental impact report and landscape plan which identified that the youth sports fields would be the first to be implemented in the first phase of a three-phase construction project.
In July last year, supervisors approved a revised landscape plan that, at the public's request, relocated all sports fields to the north-eastern side of the park, the sports field side, thus saving the famous Heritage Grove and many other trees (more details available at floodpark.org). The plan to have youth sports fields constructed in Phase One remained unchanged. Funding for the first phase was allocated and was shaping up to finally get construction going this year.
In December, the worst happened: supervisors unanimously voted to delay youth sports fields at the park by removing baseball field restoration and new sports fields from Phase One. Wait, how could that happen? Why did the supervisors make this decision without allowing the parks department's presentation of the final plan? Why did they suppress public discussion and input? Did they even realize that their decision would break their promise and have such a negative impact on area youth?
The community youth and associated organizations, which have been major supporters of the project, were never notified of this major change to the plan. To allow this ill-thought-out and damaging action to stand is a major setback for youth sports organizations, coaches and local youth. It comes at a time when the extreme weather has already negatively impacted youth sports, as many practice and play at locations that are not accessible due to saturated and damaged fields.
All of this can and should be corrected now. Construction is not set to begin until the summer. Plans for the baseball and sport fields are already well along and could be finalized for Phase One. By restoring these critical sports fields back into Phase One, youth could be playing on them next season.
Phase One is funded and will start this summer. However, future phases have no guarantee that they will be funded. County management and the parks department both have publicly stated that a downturn in the economy and high inflation could significantly impact the next several years of county projects, budgets, and funding. Add to this the unexpected costs of extreme weather damage this year and forecasts for continued extreme weather events and we have a bleak financial picture. Why, with these looming financial forecasts, put our area youth at risk of indefinite delay?
Knowing the history of how projects progress in the county, it is easy to see that further delays for youth sports are likely to occur. So what might at best be a three-year delay is more likely to be four years, six years or more. Why put our youth at such risk?
The community and parks staff put a lot of effort into the Realize Flood Park project plan. Local youth were expecting baseball and sports fields in Phase One. All previous supervisorial meetings that discussed this had resulted in support for these fields being part of Phase One. That was never modified; at least, not until this backroom decision that supervisors made last December.
Let's Fix This. Don't allow this broken promise to stand. Let's deliver the restoration of the baseball field and the new multi-use fields in Phase One now. There is time. It is the right thing to do. We all need to raise our voice and ask County Supervisors and Parks management to listen and keep their word.
Ron Snow is a leading member of Flood Park Advocate, a group focused on future development and preservation of the county's Flood Park.