Concern Over Noise, Lights : Neighbors Call Foul on Park for Sports

Times Community Correspondent

When residents in a quiet, established neighborhood near Marine and Redondo avenues heard that the city was going to develop a park on leased TRW land near their homes, many envisioned green open space, trees and children's swings.

But what they will be getting, according to one resident, is "a boiler room" of athletic activity--7.6 acres partitioned into a baseball diamond, a soccer field, two basketball courts, two volleyball courts, a children's play area and, if space permits, racquetball courts.

Although city officials believe that a park will upgrade the area, resident Joe Dattilo said many residents fear that such a concentration of organized sports will bring little more than noise and an annoying spillover of bright lights from evening games.

"If they put in trees and grass and a nice place to walk, then it would be an asset," Dattilo said, "but if you're talking about fields and lights and equipment that are being used with the intensity of a boiler room, then it's not an asset."

Great Prospect

For another group of residents across town, though, the prospect of the new Marine Avenue Park is great because it could reduce use at the city park next to their homes. Residents near Dorsey Field baseball diamond in Live Oak Park at Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue asked the City Council last month to give them relief from lights and noise.

"I believe that an individual's right to play baseball is no more important than my right to peace and quiet after a certain hour," Bunny Kelso, a 21st Street resident, told the council.

Some of Kelso's neighbors, whose houses abut the playing field, helped the council understand their problem by giving them bags filled with the stray balls that had landed in their yards.

Although it could do nothing about stray balls, the council did agree to a citywide ban on athletic activity in its parks after 10 p.m., an hour earlier than had been allowed.

That left Jim Stecklein, director of city parks and recreation, to deal with the athletic groups vying for time on Dorsey Field.

"It's one of those no-win situations where you're faced with an inadequate situation, and you're supposed to make it adequate somehow," Stecklein said good-naturedly.

Stecklein said that complaints at Dorsey Field have steadily increased as use of the field has grown to the point where playing fields are booked solid by organized teams. Lighted fields are in particularly high demand because most adult leagues and youth groups can only attract players, coaches and spectators during evening hours. There are now 2,250 players on organized teams playing at four city baseball diamonds. There are another 1,800 playing organized soccer.

Marine Avenue Park, which is due to open late this year, has been viewed as a safety valve to relieve pressure on other parks. Stecklein said the new park is being designed so that noise and lights will have the least possible effect on the neighbors.

"We have situated the park in such a way that the baseball field is at the farthest corner," he said, noting that lights will be pointing away from homes.

Landscaping will provide a buffer, and designers expect spectator noise to drift away from the neighborhood along usual wind patterns, Stecklein said. Neighbors across the four-lane Marine Avenue may hear the crack of a bat and some yelling--"the typical noise of a baseball game"--similar to the sounds that drift across Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue to residents east of Live Oak Park. But, Stecklein said, "It's not what you'd consider a harassing kind of noise."

Another Tack

Resident Dattilo is not entirely convinced that his home and others along 23rd Street won't be adversely affected. But after a lawyer advised him that residents would have little success trying to block the park through legal action, he said he would turn his energies toward trying to influence the park's design.

"I'll just have to live with it, I guess," he said.

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