Madden Hughes, 2, with Kyle Hughes at Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting. They were there for Keizer Youth Sports Association, which is seeking park improvement funds. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

The group operating Keizer’s baseball fields may be done managing the park unless the city provides some $30,000 annually for upgrades and maintenance.

Kurt Barker, president of the Keizer Youth Sports Association, spoke out at a budget committee hearing Tuesday at the Keizer Civic Center.

“The entire bill of maintaining the park fell on our shoulders,” Barker said. “It was the spirit of the management agreement to create a tournament town to help offset those costs and create enough funds to do that.”

While city funds have in previous years kicked in money for permanent bathrooms, retaining walls and concession stands, parents take care of the park’s day-to-day needs via their wallets and their volunteer efforts. Bill Lawyer, interim public works director, said the city does no mowing or other maintenance.

It’s been described as an arrangement almost completely unique to our community, and the Keizer Youth Sports Association said that has to change. They’re requesting the $30,000 appropriation on an annual basis and suggest that parking revenues from Volcanoes Stadium be diverted into youth sports.

The city’s current contribution is free water – the same as for all of Keizer’s other parks – and sewer service.

Barker said that, with an annual contribution from the city, the group can focus on fundraising for improvements “rather than just mowing and watering the lawn.

“We do have a gold mine here at Keizer with Interstate 5 access and the number of fields we have,” Barker said.

City Councilor Jim Taylor reiterated the city has historically left operations and maintenance to volunteers.

KYSA’s budget request says field usage fees have generated only $20,000 per year, leaving $30,000 in maintenance and utility fees that parents and volunteers have to cover. It states the program brings in some 300 teams each year from outside Keizer.

“I mean, the park is a gift to whoever is running it,” Taylor said. “It’s one of the finest facilities in the west.”

Specific requests include about $8,500 for electricity, $4,000 for temporary toilets, $2,000 for fertilizer, off-season maintenance from November to May, maintenance of a drainage system and $10,000 for other maintenance.

Capital improvement requests include replacing a well pump, retaining walls, fencing and backstops along with bleachers.

City Manager Chris Eppley said there would be chances to discuss the situation after the budget process, but discouraged such chatter during committee meetings.

“We certainly understand their concerns and I think there are some solutions sitting out there,” Eppley said. “… I think there’s too much discussion to have to come up with real, honest discussions in a two-day period.”

The parks board has included in its recommended improvements $5,000, but Eppley said that is “not nearly enough, I think, to get KYSA where they believe they need to be.”