EAST LAKE — The ballfields in East Lake never rest.
"They are used basically year round," said Rick Watson, president of the East Lake Youth Sports Association. "That's the reason we're trying to add a couple more multipurpose fields."
Pinellas County park officials think they've finally found the perfect spot for the fields and hope that, this time, it won't spark the uproar that previous suggestions have generated.
"We're hoping," county parks director Paul Cozzie said, "that this location turns out to be the workable solution."
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East of the Keller Water Treatment Facility, about 550 yards from the sports group's current complex, sits 16 acres off of Old Keystone Road. It is there that county officials envision two new fields for the 1,800 East Lake youth who participate every year in baseball, football, soccer and cheerleading.
To appease local residents, the fields won't be lit or outfitted with a loud public address system.
The land is part of the 871-acre Wilde property purchased by the county in 2008. Originally, the county proposed dedicating 100 acres to ballfields, then 27 acres. Like the Brooker Creek Preserve and Pinellas County School Board property at East Lake and Keystone roads before it, those ideas fell by the wayside.
Homeowners said they moved to the area for the quiet, rural life, and that the existing fields in East Lake already generated too much noise, traffic and light.
In response to the outcry, the county came up with the latest solution and decided to move the location of the fields to the northeastern most corner of the Wilde property. Officials also said the new fields could be used for practices only.
Despite the concessions, resident Shirley Muller said she still is not satisfied. A vocal critic of the plan then and now, she said the compromise doesn't address the problem with traffic or speeding.
"This is a very narrow two lane road," she said. "The traffic on it is atrocious from 5 o'clock to 8:30 during the week and then on Saturday mornings, it starts at 7 and goes until 10. Would you like to get run over going to get your mail from your mailbox? We almost do. They don't slow down for anything.
"They've ruined our whole little piece of heaven that was quiet."
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The county has already budgeted about $368,000 to construct the fields, Cozzie said.
All officials are waiting on now is a permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, said Ivan Fernandez, the county's division director of engineering services. That permit could come as soon as December, he said.
The county wouldn't oversee the construction or operate the fields. East Lake would do that.
"We would probably plan on entering into a license agreement with the East Lake Youth Sports Association to operate and maintain the fields," Cozzie said. "We just don't have the manpower, the equipment or the funds to take on that responsibility."
Watson, the association president, said relief can't come soon enough.
"It would certainly meet our current needs," he said, "and would meet our needs going forward."