City considers options for Little Valley Road park

A softball field and mountain bike pump track are among top options for the future of Little Valley park.

POULSBO — When Maurice “Gene” Foster was growing up in Poulsbo in the 1950s and ’60s, the local landscape was much different.

“When I was a kid, we could ride our bikes down (Highway) 305 with our dogs and not see a car at all,” Foster recalls.

Right around the corner from his home, near the corner of Little Valley Road and Bernt Road, is a field that has experienced continuous change over the decades. Foster has witnessed it all.

Today, that corner field is set for another change. Exactly what that change will be is not yet known.

Kitsap County transferred ownership of the land — currently a baseball field — to the City of Poulsbo in 2013, under the condition that the land would remain used for community activities.

The city wants a third party to lease the land — and maintain it free of city expense — for public use. The city Parks and Recreation Commission heard proposals Feb. 16 from four local organizations: the Diamond Dusters youth softball team, North Kitsap Little League, Kitsap Children’s Musical Theater, and the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, which wants to convert the site into a pump track. A pump track is a man-made track with hills and dips, used by mountain bikers.

The meeting packed city hall.

“We’ve never had standing room only before,” commission chairman Steve Calhoun said. “People were standing in the back. It was wall-to-wall people. It was really great. This is definitely the most attended meeting we’ve had.”

After discussing the proposals, the commission decided to recommend two for City Council consideration on March 4: the pump track, or a softball field for the Diamond Dusters. The council can choose any of the four, but only those two come with a thumbs up from the commission.

“The pump track is unique. There’s not too many pump tracks in Washington,” Calhoun said. “The presentation was about giving youth and adults and families access to it. And there’s a lot of bikers in the area. It seemed like something different and exciting for the city to have.”

Calhoun noted that the softball team would bring families out to the field.

Changing corner

To Foster, the impending change for the field is the latest in a long list of developments.

His home near the corner of Little Valley Road and Bernt Road borders the ball field. Historically, locals called it the “sandpit,” becasue it was filled with hills of sand.

“There’s two houses right next to it,” Foster said. “The one furthest north was my dad’s house when I was a kid. We moved there when I was 6. At that time, what we called the ‘sandpit’ was used by Puget Power.”

The utility company used the land to store power poles.

The second house near the ball field was built by Foster in 1976; he lives there today, his brother lives in the old house. The road leading down to the field is also their driveway.

“We’re such a unique neighborhood,” Foster said. “We’re a community that is either sons and grandsons of people that were here when I was a kid.”

Foster can recall when the field was so full of sand that he and his friends would stand on top of a hill and look down to the road. Today, the view from the road looks down onto the field.

“You could dig down, it was pure sand,” Foster said. “People would come in and get some sand to mix for cement.”

Over time, the sand was taken away bit by bit to fill in various parts of Poulsbo.

“When they put 305 in, in ’55, they took the top of that hill off and built that road,” Foster said.

“I graduated in ’67, and I built my house here in ’76, and somewhere between then they took another cut and filled in over by Liberty Bay Auto (at the head of Liberty Bay),” he recalled. “In ’78 or ’80, my dad and I were concerned that they might be digging too much. That was the first time they had a question of what to do with it.”

One interest was from a towing company that wanted to store cars on it. That didn’t appeal to neighbors, who draw water from wells. It was about that time that it became a baseball field.

“They had a town meeting or something, and they decided to use it as a practice field,” Foster said. “They leveled it off, put some gravel on the driveway. It was about two years later when they put a fence in.”

The ball field’s popularity proved difficult for Foster at times, as parked cars would block his driveway.

“It was like a rodeo up there with all the cars all over the place,” Foster said.

“They did that for a few years but felt it was too small for the Little Leaguers, so they turned it into a T-ball field. Then they abandoned it in the early ’90s.”

Foster said he liked all the proposals. Continuing its use as a ballfield makes sense to him. He is concerned about how the land would be maintained; neighbors have found drug paraphernalia in the field in the past.

Who will take over the field, and how it will be maintained, will be decided by the City Council.

Whatever is decided, Foster just hopes it will be put to good community use. And that he can still get down his driveway.