More than 1,300 residents have signed a petition urging the city of Olympia to acquire about 150 acres surrounding LBA Park to create the LBA Woods Park.
LBA Woods Park will address the city’s pressing recreational needs while conserving upland forest habitat.
The city parks plan identifies sports fields as a high-priority need, as the city lacks even one dedicated rectangular field. LBA Woods Park could provide space for up to four rectangular artificial turf fields.
The park could also provide a site for a badly needed off-leash dog park that is well insulated from homes, as well as a site for a BMX park and/or community garden.
The beautiful trail system on the remaining 100-plus acres of LBA Woods will provide a place in town to experience nature, walk dogs, run, hike and mountain bike on trails accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
The cost to acquire the two parcels that make up LBA Woods is estimated at $12 million. State and federal sources earmarked for park and trail purchases can contribute up to half of that cost. The city would need to contribute about $6 million to $9 million. By comparison, the city paid $3 million for the 10-acre Ward Lake parcel.
A $6 million to $9 million cost to the city would be an extraordinary value because the land could serve such a wide array of the city’s park needs: rectangular sports fields, a dog park, a community garden, a BMX park, wooded walking and mountain-bike trails, and access to nature.
Acquiring LBA Woods would save millions of dollars that would have to be spent on acquiring alternative sites that would be significantly less accessible to Olympia and UGA residents. To capitalize on that bargain, the city must act soon because the two owners, while open to selling, may move forward to develop.
Replacing LBA Woods with 900 single family suburban homes would worsen Olympia’s density average as single family units lower the average. The 2014 Buildable Lands Report indicates Olympia will have a 20 percent excess supply of dwelling units to meet its 2035 projected growth. Using LBA Woods as a park would reduce that supply by only about 1.3 percent and help redirect growth to downtown and other density nodes.
For dense urban growth to succeed, quality green spaces are a must. In fact, Gov. Jay Inslee and a host of agencies recently launched an initiative to get kids outdoors. As Olympia’s population grows, nearby natural and recreational opportunities dwindle.
Saving LBA Woods as a park is not just good economics, but a responsibility we owe to our children and future residents.