Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, May 29 @ 5:15 p.m. / Community

After Receiving $500,000 Courtesy of Huffman, Del Norte County Will Conduct Public Outreach to Deliver On Pyke Field Improvements

Families took in a softball game at Pyke Field on Wednesday. | Jessica C. Andrews

Though grateful for the Congressional support, Del Norte County staff are figuring out how to deliver much-needed improvements to Pyke Field using $500,000 in Community Project Funding.

Those dollars came to Del Norte County courtesy of Congressman Jared Huffman, according to a staff report from Assistant County Administrative Officer Randy Hooper. But it’s not enough for the project they had envisioned, Hooper told Del Norte County supervisors Tuesday.

“Knowing the total project cost was likely going to exceed what was available, we had to pair back what our ask was,” he said, adding that the county sent a letter of appreciation to Huffman. “We landed on a $1.8 million project that included drainage improvements, lighting, rehab of the playground and a pedestrian walkway through the field. One-point-eight million was the price tag the county engineer established for those pieces.”

Staff plan to use on-call professional services including an architect and a planner to “present a vision of what we’d like to do,” Hooper said. That conversation would involve the public, the Board and the various groups that use Pyke Field. Hooper said he envisioned holding an evening public workshop.

Noting that improvements to Pyke Field was included as part of the strategic plan supervisors adopted on April 23, the goal is to “do some project formulation” and pursue additional funding. That could come in the form of grants, private-public partnerships or tribal partnerships.

According to Hooper’s report, funding is available in the 2023-24 budget for professional services. Staff recommended using a portion of those dollars to develop conceptual plans that range from the basic and utilitarian to the more dramatic.

Del Norte County could also use Measure R money to help pay for Pyke Field’s renovation since those tax dollars could be used for public infrastructure improvements, Hooper said.

District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard acknowledged that $500,000 wouldn’t go very far. But he urged staff to do as much public engagement as possible to identify what the community’s top priorities are.

Howard also called on staff to use the dollars the county does have to address that top priority since it would probably “gobble up every dime of this thing.”

Hooper agreed with Howard.

“We knew the most critical issues are going to be the drainage and the field surface,” he said. “That is really going to consume probably the money that’s currently available. It’s going to involve multiple different funding sources in order to have a funding strategy be feasible.”

County staff had explored improving the drainage at Pyke Field, installing artificial turf, replacing lights and reconstructing the bleachers, dugouts and playground equipment. In addition to the proposed walkway, staff had also looked into building new restrooms at the softball field. Estimated costs for these improvements was about $7 million, “which far exceeded any likely earmark funding,” Hooper said.

District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey said she was curious about whether Del Norte was able to vary off the Pyke Field project proposal it submitted to Huffman’s office.

Hooper said that staff learned that as long as federal earmarks are being used for what the original ask was for, “you’re going to be fine.”

“A lot of proposals that go in are vague and are not very well defined — the jail rehabilitation would be a good example,” Hooper said, referring to the $3.1 million Del Norte County received  in 2022 from the late U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein for jail improvements. “We knew [there was] a substantial cost to do the rehabilitation. Ultimately what we’re finding out is the funding agency, which in the case of the jail project is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they just want to have the money spent in the jail. This will be through HUD and I assume it would be a similar project where as long as it’s used for the improvement of Pyke, we should be fine.”

Starkey noted that Pyke Field is among the top concerns people approach her about.

“It’s huge,” she said. “I think when we start with our public engagement, [we should] be careful what we ask for because we’re going to get a lo tof ideas on how to best spend it and what the priorities should be.”


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