Sports Complex Imminent, Housing In The Works at Tule River Reservation

At least two baseball diamonds will be ready for play at the Tule River Tribe’s Hyder Ranch Sports Park before summer’s end, and a new affordable housing project should soon be underway.

While tribal officials had hoped to have the new diamonds — intended for adult use — open before the end of June, it now seems unlikely, reports Tribal Administrator Victor Silva, Sr.

“I don’t think it’s going to be this month,” he said of a project that’s had to be vastly reworked since its conception.

Originally, the sports complex, which will cover some 22 acres when complete, was to be part of a much larger 54-unit housing development at Reservation Road and Road 296, just outside the Tule Indian Reservation east of Porterville. Water problems, however, stymied the project.

“The wells turned out to have high nitrates,” said Bill Hayter, project advisor to the Tribal Council. “The cost of treating the well heads was too much.”

Instead, just five houses will be constructed adjacent to the sports facility. Construction of those homes, a separate project from the sports complex, is already underway.

“They’re doing housing pads down there right now,” said Silva.

The rest of the Tribe-owned property at the site, more than 300 acres, will be used for grazing.

The ball diamonds used for adult league play on the Tule River Indian Reservation were lost when the land was turned to other uses, said Hayter, and residents have been anxious to have new ones constructed.

“The originals were wiped out when they built the casino,” he said. “The push-rate is to get two diamonds in tomorrow. They’ve been waiting a long time.”

The wait is almost over. County officials require a final check of the construction site by a biologist in order to ensure there is no threat to the local ecosystem, then work can start.

“We’re waiting for the biological report before we move any dirt,” Hayter said. “Grating will take three weeks — five weeks if we hit rock. From there, we go vertical.”

Because of the ongoing drought, the diamonds will at first lack turf, and construction of most of the other amenities at the complex will go on for several years. Eventually, the complex will boast a trio of ball diamonds with bullpens and a warm-up area, a soccer field, a basketball court, a playground, park, two parking areas, food vending and a picnic area. The first phase of construction will include the diamonds, access roads and parking.

Meanwhile, other plans for a replacement housing project are in the works.

“Two hundred and fifteen housing units are needed today,” said Hayter. “We’re trying to come up with housing that’s cost-effective and affordable for the Tribe.”

The location they’ve selected, one with plenty of drinkable water, is a large parcel adjacent to the Tribe’s existing land.

“There’s plenty of room for housing on the Lower Ranch Property,” Hayter said.

The process of extending the boundaries of the Reservation to include the Lower Ranch Property is already underway, Hayter said. The Bureau of Indian Affairs should approve the addition of the land into federal trust after the 30-day public comment period ends, he added.

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