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Ballfields' location still unclear

The proposed site - Brooker Creek Preserve - comes with obstacles.

By THERESA BLACKWELL
Published March 26, 2007


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EAST LAKE - The number of ballfields proposed for the piney acres in the Brooker Creek Preserve has been downsized from four to three by the East Lake Youth Sports Association.

But still unknown is whether the group will get permits to build those three fields.

And if it does get permits, it's not certain where the fields would go.

It turns out the site envisioned for the fields - 38.5 acres Pinellas County has leased to the association for $1 per year - not only has wetlands and wildlife, but it also is partly in a 100-year flood plain controlled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

That's important because to build ballfields, land elevations would need to be raised. And doing that would affect flood patterns.

Then, the excavation needed to offset raised lands would reduce lands available for ballfields.

This new consideration is just the latest twist in what has been a protracted effort by the youth group to get the okay for ballfields in the preserve. Preservationists have worked hard to thwart the plans for the fields.

As an alternative to Brooker Creek, county commissioners have directed staff to look for possible sites elsewhere in the East Lake area.

The youth group's new plans to build three, rather than four fields, might make it easier to find alternative sites.

Commissioner Karen Seel said Friday she would like to see whether the fields could go on property owned by Pinellas County schools at the southeast corner of East Lake and Keystone roads.

The school district has tentative plans for a school on the western portion of the 44-acre property, said Paul Cozzie, the county's director of culture, education and leisure. The eastern portion is lower in elevation, and wetter. "I don't know how much of that is buildable," he said.

Cozzie said county staff continues to meet with school officials to consider the location, but he added that they are also looking at property on the Cypress Woods Elementary School grounds and property adjacent to East Lake High School.

The two sites both have wetlands, Cozzie said, so he doesn't know what can be built there.

Against all this talk, children are registering for youth sports programs at record rates, said Kutchins.

"We're beating the hell out of the fields and now we're going to be beating them more," he said.

He said the association has 10 fields on property it owns, but it needs about five to 10 more to accommodate all the children who want to play.

"We're just living with this," he said, "and it's a travesty."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or 727 445-4170.

[Last modified March 25, 2007, 23:32:37]


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