Park ideas draw support

OLYMPIA: Isthmus, west side plaza proposals have strongest backing, residents tell council

July 14, 2010 

OLYMPIA - More than 30 people shared thoughts with the Olympia City Council on Tuesday night on the city's parks plan, most pushing either for an isthmus park or a west side plaza. Others spoke in favor of dog parks and soccer fields.

Isthmus park proponent Allen Miller said the idea for an isthmus park dates to 1956, according to state documents.

“This is an old idea, and we need to implement it,” he said during Tuesday night’s public hearing.

Olympia staff members now propose that the city consider a “public-private partnership” for the isthmus park and a west side plaza in the city’s parks plan after an outpouring of support.

Staffers earlier had suggested language that would support an isthmus park without city financial support. Earlier still, the isthmus park wasn’t in the parks plan. The latest revision would have to be approved by the City Council, which is expected in August or September.

The parks plan is a sort of master plan that looks out 10 years, identifying the location of future parks and trails, maintaining facilities, and directing programs and services.

The draft plan proposes a new swimming beach at Ward Lake, two new 40-acre community parks, community gardens throughout the parks, and a new dog park at the city’s Chambers Lake parcel at 4808 Herman Road.

Several proponents for a west side public plaza also spoke. The plaza, proposed for a 27-acre property on Harrison Avenue just west of Cooper Point Road, could have an amphitheater, an environmental learning center, a bell tower and a dog park.

“It’s unusual to have an opportunity like this” on a parcel so large, said Phil Schulte.

Former Councilwoman Karen Messmer pushed for a West Bay trail.

“We own this property,” she said. “We need to make this happen.”

Kay Lee Evans, representing the Olympia United Soccer Club, pressed for more soccer fields. They wouldn’t necessarily have to have facilities, just “rectangular pieces of grass.”

Lynn Scroggins of Sound Hounds, a group that advocates for dog parks, praised the parks plan, which is aimed at opening more dog facilities.

“We worked with the staff, and they listened to us,” she said.

The movement for an isthmus park formed in opposition to a request from South Sound developer Triway Enterprises in 2007 to raise building-height limits from 35 feet to as high as 90 feet, for a 141-unit condominium-mixed use development. The council granted the rezoning in 2008 but reverted height limits to 35 feet on an interim basis in January, after three new council members were elected. The move likely will become permanent later this year.

The isthmus park group wants to acquire not only the Triway parcels but also the Viewpoint Tower (formerly Capitol Center) building and nearby parcels. A 2009 study showed the cost of acquiring land and developing a park to be between $28 million and $32 million. But the costs are likely lower due to the weak real estate market.

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