BATTLE POINT ALLIANCE Position Statement on Stadium Lighting at Battle Point Park July 28, 2021
MISSION: The mission of the Battle Point Alliance is to ensure that Battle Point Park and the residential Battle Point neighborhood co-exist in harmony. We support a healthy balance of park uses that benefit the Bainbridge Island community including daytime passive and active recreational uses, and educational and cultural uses including those conducted by the Battle Point Astronomical Association.
The Alliance supports physical activity and youth sports; however, we do not support stadium lighting proposed by the Bainbridge Island Football Club (BIFC) at Battle Point Park. Lights there will adversely impact the Battle Point neighborhood, the Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA), and non-sports users of the park. The Alliance supports the exploration of lighted sports field alternatives to Battle Point Park in more urbanized areas. Any site with stadium lighting must first be evaluated through comprehensive needs and impact assessments and consultation. The unsubstantiated suggestion of a crisis put forth by BIFC is not a reason to subvert this process. If implemented, the irreversible decision to add stadium lighting at Battle Point Park could potentially create a region-wide night-time destination for these fields with the following adverse impacts.
• PUBLIC SAFETY (INCREASED TRAFFIC): In a rural residential neighborhood with no sidewalks, road shoulders, bike lanes, crosswalks, or fog lines on shaded narrow roadways, stadium lighting would create significant new safety hazards to pedestrians and cyclists by bringing substantially increased traffic — already heavy at times during the day for a residential area — into the neighborhood at night. Bainbridge Island Youth Soccer Club’s 2005 Statement about Traffic: The BIYSC stated in 2005 they would address the traffic impacts from the new artificial turf fields. No one has addressed traffic impacts; they have only become worse.
• LIGHT POLLUTION: Night-time stadium lights would threaten the viability of the Battle Point Astronomical Association and the landmark community resource that is the Edwin E. Ritchie Observatory. The BPAA does not believe there is any way to mitigate the impact to the night sky from the reflection of lights off the fields. The proposal would potentially produce light trespass into the surrounding neighborhoods from October through March.
• SEPTIC WASTE: The proposal for expanded park usage, especially during the wet season, may exacerbate the already problematic septic system issues at the park.
• EXPANSION OF LIGHTING IN THE FUTURE: Adding lighting to the turf fields would set a precedent. There could be additional proposals to allow lighting even later in the evening, or to add lighting to the parking lots or other sports fields or courts at the park. This would lead to continuing battles between the parties.
• NOISE: Additional noise would disrupt the quiet of the park and neighborhood well into the evening.
• WILDLIFE: Night-time lighting, traffic, and noise create further disruptions to wildlife in the area.
• VIOLATION OF PARK RULES: Published rules for park use (appearing on the Bainbridge Island Metro Parks & Recreation District website) state, for a number of well-considered reasons, that the park is open from dawn to dusk, and that disturbing wildlife is prohibited. City of Bainbridge Island Code §12.20.090 provides: “Except for unusual and unforeseen emergencies, parks shall be open to the public every day of the year during designated hours, other than as provided in subsection B … The opening and closing hours for each individual park shall be posted therein for public information.” Postings at Battle Point Park are consistent with park rules and confirm the park opens at dawn and closes at dusk. The rule and code provision are consistent with restrictions on activities after dark that would adversely affect neighbors and wildlife.
The Alliance’s position is night-time lighting and sports are completely out of balance with the quiet rural residential community surrounding Battle Point Park. The BIFC’s March 2021 letter to its member families stated, without consulting park neighbors, that the proposal will allow BIFC “…to remaining [sic] in harmony with other park users and neighbors.” Rather, it is the proposal that is not in harmony with the neighborhoods around the park.
Examples of Balanced Park Uses: The Park Board’s decision to allow frisbee golf only in the south (sports) end of the park, and to reduce the proposal from 18 to 9 “holes” is an example of a good decision that recognizes the need for balance at the park. The Board’s 2005 approval of artificial turf fields without lighting is another example of balance. The addition of lighting tips the balance in favor of night sports creating significant unintended consequences.
Even without night-time uses, the list of current activities/uses at Battle Point Park is very long and new activities are added each year. The Park District acknowledges that Battle Point has been and continues to be the “go-to” location for new park programs and activities. The neighborhood has supported an expansion of new public uses of the park, but believes we’ve reached a tipping point with night-time use. Residents are being asked once again to absorb and support another large-scale activity — this one at night — in an already heavily used park.
Current Uses of Battle Point Park: Youth and adult soccer, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee, roller hockey, adult softball and little league baseball, disc golf, pickleball, tennis, cross-country track meets, bicycle pump track, youth gymnastics facility, two playgrounds, hiking/dog walking including trail heads for Forest to Sky and Fairy Dell Trails, garden plots, fishing, horseback riding (corral and trail), summer concerts, summer movie series, Halloween hay rides, wine tasting festival, Chilly Hilly, Turkey Trot, and park services office and shop/maintenance yard.
It is not fair or reasonable to suggest the neighborhood has not, or does not, support youth sports. The neighborhood has accommodated the construction of the artificial turf fields. Many of us are parents whose children currently play, or grew up playing, organized sports on Bainbridge Island. We support Island youth; we don’t support stadium lights at Battle Point for the reasons stated herein. Any other quiet non-urban residential neighborhood facing the public safety and other issues posed here would express similar concerns about stadium lighting.
NEED NOT ESTABLISHED
Although the BIFC claims there is an acute need for sports field lighting for youth, they’ve presented no data to support this other than total Island population data. The main premise for installing stadium lighting at Battle Point appears to be based on an assumption that the number of school-aged participants will continue to increase in the future. However, the population of school-aged children on Bainbridge is actually declining. Based on population data and trends, Bainbridge Island should have sufficient capacity to provide for youth participating in sports in the foreseeable future.
Data: In support of its proposal, the BIFC claims there is a growing demand for youth soccer resources on Bainbridge by presenting overall population growth statistics for the Island. Conflating overall population growth with a claimed growing demand for illuminated soccer fields at Battle Point Park is not supported by the demographics. Based on Bainbridge Island School District (BISD) data, the population of school-aged children on the Island decreased steadily from 2004 to 2021. From a high of 4,223 students enrolled in 2005-2006, BISD student enrollment has declined 15.7% to 3,560 in 2020-2021. Without major changes in socioeconomic conditions on Bainbridge (i.e., the availability of affordable housing), the trend in the youth population will continue downwards into the future.
BIFC, and other teams who use the fields, must provide specific verifiable data — past, present, and projected future — on the real and sustained future demand for night-time winter youth soccer and other field sports. To analyze and establish trends by age, reliable data would need to include the number of participating youth by age each year over the past at least 5-10 years. BIFC should be required to establish that the need is persistent and growing, and not just transient, and not the result of overscheduling. Data should also be provided to determine what portion of demonstrated participation is from Island youth versus off-Island users, and from use by youth versus adults.
ASSESSMENT OF NEEDS, IMPACTS, AND ALTERNATIVES Big changes, like the addition of stadium lighting in any neighborhood, let alone a quiet rural residential neighborhood next to a major observatory, should not even be considered without the project proponent and approving agencies completing thorough unbiased needs and impact assessments. This would include an analysis of the impact on the neighboring community and a review of the larger environmental impacts including those from the park’s septic system(s). The assessment would specifically assess current and future traffic and traffic impacts on City-owned roads leading to and circling Battle Point Park. A development proposal for any alternative site must also include an unbiased survey of all existing and available alternative sports field sites including site details, the organizations that use them, and demographic details and scheduling needs of each organization.
BIFC is made up of good people, they are our neighbors. Our concern here is that major development decisions like this one not be based primarily on the assumptions and recommendations of soccer clubs. Although BIFC is a valuable community resource and a stakeholder, they do not have all the expertise required for a comprehensive, unbiased, and transparent analysis of this proposal and potential alternatives. The community and Island as a whole require a broader assessment of existing needs, resources, costs, impacts, and mitigation measures (including mitigation costs/funding) conducted by relevant experts and stakeholders. Relevant stakeholders would include BIFC, BPAA, the Alliance, other park users, the Park Board and District, School District, and City Council, among others.
There are alternatives to Battle Point Park. We believe the preferred resolution would be to locate lights in a more urban area with better infrastructure or in an area with much less impact to surrounding rural neighborhoods and to the BPAA. For example, the City of Poulsbo is proposing four acres of lighted turf fields at the Poulsbo Events and Recreation Center in an area that has little impact on surrounding neighborhoods. The Bainbridge Island School District or City may be interested in shared facilities. The Alliance remains a willing participant in a broader community discussion about the need and available alternatives for additional sport fields and night-time lighting.
CONCLUSION Night-time stadium lighting is completely out of balance with the quiet rural residential Battle Point neighborhood, adversely impacting the not only the neighborhood, but also the BPAA and non-sports users of the park. The addition of permanent lighting infrastructure at Battle Point Park, with all the impacts therein, does not make sense especially given that the youth population on the Island is decreasing at a significant rate. The Alliance strongly endorses the exploration of alternatives to Battle Point Park. Big changes, such as stadium lighting, that have predictable and significant impacts on residential communities are not responsibly made without comprehensive and unbiased study and consultation. The Alliance maintains the following is needed:
1. Thorough data gathering and study of the current and projected needs given a continued decline in Island youth;
2. Investigation of the potential adverse impacts to the community and environment;
3. Specific plans to mitigate adverse consequences; and
4. Consideration of all potential options to meet the established needs of stakeholders.
The Battle Point Alliance would be an active participant in this process.