Developers, residents clash over southeast Olympia forest land

ahobbs@theolympian.comFebruary 7, 2014 

Several residents hope to create a park on undeveloped forest land in southeast Olympia.

The LBA Woods Park Coalition has formed to protect 150 wooded acres from two proposed subdivisions. The coalition is circulating a petition that calls on Olympia to dedicate the land toward expanding the adjacent 22.6-acre LBA Park. So far, the petition has almost 1,100 signatures.

Aside from serving as a habitat for wildlife, the wooded area includes popular trails for walking, running and mountain biking.

Coalition chairman Jeff Marti estimated the parcels could cost between $6 million and $12 million total – and acknowledges that funding is a tall order. The city has already committed to downtown projects, including the isthmus and Percival Landing.

“The cupboards are bare,” Marti said of funding options, which could include donations and state grants. “But if we don’t act now, the woods could be developed, and then they’re gone forever.”

Spurred by a sense of urgency, the coalition will host a public kickoff event at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at Washington Middle School’s cafeteria, 3100 Cain Road SE.

The coalition began organizing last fall with a handful of residents. If the vision comes to fruition, the expanded LBA Park would grow to about half the size of Olympia’s largest park, Priest Point, which is 314 acres.

Aside from preserving the woods, the coalition is gauging interest for other recreational amenities on the site, such as soccer fields, an off-leash dog park and a BMX bike park. Another idea under consideration is to file a formal ballot measure and send the park plan to voters, said Marti, noting that nothing has been set in stone.

Located in the Chambers Lake Basin, the proposed developments linger in limbo over density and zoning issues.

At 79 acres, the Trillium site is bordered on the west by LBA Park, on the north by Morse Merryman Road and on the east by Wiggins Road. After the city denied an initial plan for 500 homes, developer D.R. Horton agreed to a lower density of four to eight units per acre. No plans for construction have been announced, although the city recently bought 5.3 acres from Horton to build a water tower in 2015.

The other proposed development, known as Bentridge Village, calls for 501 residential units in the form of single- and multi-family housing on 72 acres. Located south of LBA Park, the development has been approved but not built.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869

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