Anyone who has witnessed the human and automobile gridlock that clogs streets in the vicinity of the Kenai Middle School soccer fields during the summer knows how popular soccer has become.
On any given summer day, hundreds of kids, parents, officials, coaches and fans can be seen swarming over the fields, enjoying what's rapidly becoming the most popular game in town.
Seeing the need for more fields, the Kenai City Council wisely has decided to rezone a large chunk of city-owned land for recreational purposes. The rezoning ordinance will allow the city's Parks and Recreation department to move forward with a grant application that will help the city recover approximately $251,548 of the approximately $500,000 projected cost of the project from the state.
Although it's an overused phrase, to describe this plan as a "win-win" seems to be most appropriate in this case, as building new soccer fields makes sense for a number of reasons.
First, the safety of our children will be enhanced by giving them more room to run and play in an area that's more appropriate for large gatherings of people. The current situation forces kids and adults alike to cross residential streets clogged with hundreds of parked vehicles that can obscure the views of passing motorists. In addition, spreading the number of available fields around town will enable maintenance crews to more effectively do the job of ensuring fields are well-maintained and kept at a level that's fit for play.
Second, the city is sending a strong message that recreation is important to the community. With the nation as a whole currently facing a health crisis brought on by inactivity : especially in young people : now seems like the perfect time to encourage more youth sport activity.
In addition, the land that's been slated for use as the new soccer complex sits on the site of a former Kenai landfill, meaning it likely could never be used for anything other than recreation or industrial use. A large tract of green grass seems like a much nicer addition to the city's landscape than smokestacks or auto-salvage lots.
Finally, the city has an opportunity to take advantage of a state Land and Conservation grant that likely won't come around again any time soon. Any opportunity the city has to use state money to help our young people and improve the city as a whole should be taken advantage of.
There are a couple considerations the city must take into account as it moves forward with the process of building the new fields. Neighborhood residents have expressed concerns that traffic and dust could disrupt their current way of life. The residents say they're not opposed to soccer fields, but don't want kids tramping across their yards and hundreds of cars running up and down their streets.
These are valid concerns. In its effort to improve things for one segment of the populace, the city should not place a burden on another.
The city has indicated it's willing to work with park neighbors to address these concerns. With enough planning and community input, it should not be a problem to ensure that the layout of the park is such that its impact on neighboring areas is minimal.
If all goes according to plan, the kids of Kenai will soon have another open space to run, play and grow strong. Although sound planning must be used to get the idea off and running, it appears as if the city has its eyes set on scoring a big goal for its young people.
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