When state legislators failed to pass a 2-year capital budget earlier this year, a long list of nearly $4 billion in projects around the state went on hold.
That list included plans to improve the popular Harmony Sports Complex in east Vancouver.
Officials with the Harmony Sports Association had high hopes they’d get money needed to improve the complex’s parking lot. Now, they find themselves in wait-and-see mode.
The good news, league and county officials say, is that their plans made the state’s capital projects list. The bad news is the thousands who use the facility year-round may have to wait another year, unless the state Legislature holds a special session this fall to make another run at the capital budget.
The park is county property but is fully managed and maintained by the park association, said Sean Janson, executive director of the Washington Timbers.
Authorities Looking for Vandals Who Struck Park in August
Police and park officials have been trying to track down a group of vandals who struck the Harmony Sports Complex in late August.
Washington Timbers executive director Sean Janson said the incident occurred early on the morning of Aug. 27, when people thought to be of middle school or high school age entered the park.
The vandals broke one of the Cascade Little League building’s windows, knocked over some portable outhouses and slashed sponsor banners and signs around the park.
“Just stupid junior high stuff” probably amounting to less than $5,000 in damage, Janson said.
They also damaged a video camera, one of the cameras that was installed following a round of vandalism a few years ago.
Janson said anyone with helpful information on the group can contact him at Sean.Janson@washingtontimbers.com, or contact the Vancouver Police Department at 360-216-5488.
The association and county made a $1.17 million request as part of this year’s state capital budget process.
The state House and Senate, however, adjourned in late July following three special sessions, without passing a two-year capital budget.
Legislators had been wrangling to address a 2016 state Supreme Court decision on water rights, which left some rural property owners unable to drill new wells and then build new homes, then negotiations broke down.
Leading up to the legislative session, the park community rallied to lobby politicians and push for the improvements. Local state representatives Liz Pike, R-Camas, and Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, eventually lent their support as well.
“It was really refreshing to see how much support we got for that,” Janson said. “We were trying to drum up the political support leading up to the capital budget negotiation, so we kind of rallied our troops and had them send their thoughts to their representatives.”
The soccer club uses the park, along with the Cascade Little League.
Over the past two years, the park has added three new lighted fields at a cost of about $3 million, he said.
Janson said there’s “easily” $10 million of investment in the complex, between the fields, structures and other improvements made over the years.
“That’s just been on the backs of parents, managers and coaches over 30 years,” he said, adding that he played on those fields as a child. “It’s really been an important piece of the community.”
The facility opened in 1981, and the park association leases the park from the county, an arrangement county Parks Director Bill Bjerke said has worked excellently.
Janson said the park group wants to build gym facilities for parents and players, along with locker rooms and other facilities to better accommodate bigger events, such as more college- or pro-level exhibition matches.
All of the park’s longer-term plans hinge on first improving its parking situation, he said.
The June Clash at the Border soccer tournament, the largest of its kind in Southwest Washington, attracts around 300 teams each year. The August Summer Slam tournaments see about 230 teams.
The park expects to see 15,000 people visit the complex during each of those weeks. Then there’s a 3-on-3 soccer tournament, beer festival, 5K race and college team showcase.
All of that is on top of the 3,500 club members and others who regularly use the fields.
The traffic and wear is getting harder to manage. Bjerke said the county sometimes has to bring in water trucks to do dust abatement in the gravel parking lot during the dry season, then contend with mud and growing holes in the wet months.
“You go from one extreme to the other, you go from potholes to dust,” he said.
Following parking improvements, the park next needs a safer entrance and exit road, Janson said.
Park users have complained about how the road out of the park, onto Northeast 192nd Avenue, can get dicey. Janson said the park association would like to have the way out turned into an intersection with a stoplight.
“That road is really becoming more busy all the time,” Bjerke said. “A signaled intersection is truly necessary.”
But again, that can’t happen without a capital budget deal. Still, Bjerke and Janson are optimistic.
“The good news is, once you get into that negotiated budget, you’re kind of fixed,” Janson said.