Supporters from the LBA Woods Park Coalition celebrated a victory Tuesday that was nearly three years in the making, but will have an impact that lasts for generations.
The Olympia City Council unanimously approved an option to buy the 72-acre wooded site in southeast Olympia known as the Bentridge property for $6.9 million. The city will hold the property with a $1 million down payment — and has until Jan. 31 to arrange to pay the remaining balance.
Citing a need to create more park space and protect the woods from development, the coalition has been lobbying the city to buy the Bentridge property and the adjacent 74-acre Trillium property. In April, the city agreed to purchase the latter for $5 million. Both sites border LBA Park and had been slated for large housing developments.
Nearly a dozen LBA Woods supporters cheered after the latest deal was made official Tuesday. Coalition member Brian Faller praised the council and city for embracing a long-term vision that will benefit Olympia for years to come.
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“This is a phenomenal day for the city,” Faller said.
News about the Bentridge purchase came as a pleasant surprise to coalition members, especially for those who had been deeply entrenched in the public process surrounding the city’s goals for the park system.
“We’re still pinching ourselves,” said coalition member Maria Ruth, who called the deal a “major victory.”
Parks director Paul Simmons said negotiations with the Dawley Trust, which owns the Bentridge property, had been underway for about nine months. Simmons said surveys and neighborhood meetings consistently showed that saving the LBA Woods has been the public’s most requested project.
“The passion for this is very, very real,” Simmons told the council Tuesday.
Simmons said the latest purchase will strengthen the city’s ability to receive state grants that can offset the cost for taxpayers.
Out of the 72 acres on the Bentridge site, the city will use 2.8 acres for the extension of Log Cabin Road between Boulevard and Wiggins roads. Another 10 acres will be set aside for housing and commercial development, including a possible “neighborhood-oriented commercial use” similar to the Wildwood Center at 2822 Capitol Way SE. That building’s tenants include a pizzeria, coffee shop, sandwich shop and grocery store.
Simmons noted that the area near LBA Woods in southeast Olympia lacks these types of services and amenities for residents.
“It’s kind of a commercial desert,” Simmons said.
Councilwoman Jeannine Roe complimented the LBA Woods Coalition for its tenacity and willingness to work with city officials during the past three years to make the deal possible.
“This is probably the most significant moment of my council career,” Roe said. “I look at this park as something that really is a legacy park. It’s a precious piece of paradise.”