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County OKs naming ball fields after boy, 9

Future park a tribute to Jensen's positive attitude, officials say

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Luke Jensen died in May after three-year battle with leukemia.
Luke Jensen died in May after three-year battle with leukemia. Photo Gallery

A sports field complex in Hazel Dell will be named in memory of Luke Jensen, who was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2007 and died last May at the age of 9.

The name “Luke Jensen Sports Park,” which was recommended in February by the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, was approved Tuesday by the Clark County Commissioners.

Luke attended King’s Way Christian Schools, where his father, Steve, serves as a principal.

The 20-acre sports field site sits on the north side of Northeast 78th Street, next to the schools.

The advisory committee recommended the name after nearly 4,000 people voted on seven potential names. About 95 percent of the votes were in favor of naming the park after Luke.

Commissioner Marc Boldt, who joined Commissioners Tom Mielke and Steve Stuart in approving the name, said after the meeting that the sports fields will be a great tribute.

Boldt’s wife, Dawn, is one of Steve Jensen’s cousins, so Boldt knew Luke.

“He was enthusiastic, and he enjoyed life,” Boldt said.

During the young boy’s long illness, he remained thoughtful of others and was always appreciative when extended family and friends came to visit, Boldt said.

“It’s what we build sports fields for,” Boldt said. “It’s not who wins the game, but it’s how we play the game.”

Naming the park for Luke was the suggestion of Cliff Yount, a volunteer for Salmon Creek Little League.

The league will be a primary user of the park when it opens next year.

Yount didn’t know Luke, but he said he was moved by the support the community gave Steve and Vikki Jensen and their family. Last April, for example, friends and neighbors drove up to the mountains to get truckloads of snow to spread on the Jensens’ yard so Luke could enjoy the sight.

“Like Luke, this park will positively affect our community,” Yount said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a great park.”

He said Salmon Creek Little League has started raising money for lights and scoreboards on the park’s two Little League fields.

Earlier this month, the county awarded a $5.4 million contract to Thompson Bros. Excavating.

Construction is slated to start April 11.

The sports park will include: two natural grass baseball/softball fields with dugouts and bullpens; a small synthetic turf field for tee ball and peewee soccer; a large synthetic turf field with scoreboards, lights, dugouts, bullpens and batting cages; a restrooms/concessions building and a maintenance storage facility.

There will also be playground equipment, walking/biking trails, 16 picnic tables, 18 benches, 10 bicycle racks and nine trash cans.

A 6-acre neighborhood park on the north side of the property will remain largely undeveloped.

The total cost is approximately $9 million.

Construction will be paid for by the real estate excise tax, which is paid whenever property is sold.

The basic maintenance of the park will be funded by the Greater Clark Parks District, a special district approved by voters in the unincorporated urban area of Clark County in 2005.

Construction will be done primarily during daylight hours on weekdays, but the contractor will be allowed to work on weekends if necessary to complete the project on schedule.

The fields are expected to be game-ready by spring 2012.

The project has not been without some controversy.

The land is a federal Superfund site because of chromium and volatile organic compounds in groundwater at least 50 feet beneath the surface. The Environmental Protection Agency said there’s no danger of exposure from building the ball fields.

In a decision last summer, hearings examiner Dan Kearns said there’s no credible evidence supporting the idea that contaminated groundwater will ever reach the surface.

The county has placed conditions to mitigate significant environmental impact.

Those include making sure field lights and the public-address system won’t be used after 10 p.m. and properly planning for increased traffic.

In December, county commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding between the county, Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department, Vancouver First Church of God and King’s Way Christian Schools.

The 25-year agreement sets out the terms for shared use of parking and fields as well as maintenance.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.

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