Olympia wants to turn a spot where you can pick Spooner strawberries into a park

The city of Olympia is considering buying land leased to Spooner Berry Farms along Yelm Highway Southeast to turn into a city park.
The city of Olympia is considering buying land leased to Spooner Berry Farms along Yelm Highway Southeast to turn into a city park. toverman@theolympian.com

Olympia officials are looking to buy 83 acres on Yelm Highway Southeast currently leased to Spooner Berry Farms and turn it into a park.

The City Council will vote on the purchase at its next meeting Aug. 21. The purchase price is $10.7 million.

Officials say the park could include full-size athletic fields, parking and restrooms, plus other features such as a community garden, a disc golf course or dog park. A master planning process for the site would start next year and include input from the public.

A large park with soccer fields was a priority in the city’s latest park plan, which acts as a roadmap for park acquisition and development, said Jonathon Turlove, associate director of the parks department. The last athletic complex the city opened was Yauger Park in 1982.

“We heard really loud and clear that land acquisition was a propriety,” he said. “There’s just a growing sense in the community that there’s less and less land available as things are developing.”

A city report in 2014 looked at all remaining undeveloped parcels large enough for a community park within the city and its urban growth area. It found five such sites, including the Yelm Highway site.

The property, at 3323 Yelm Highway SE, is privately owned and leased to Spooner Berry Farms, which uses it for a U-pick strawberry farm and farm stand. Spooner’s main farm where most of its berries are grown is about 5 miles east on Yelm Highway.

The city said if it buys the property, it could continue leasing to Spooner until the park is developed. That would likely happen in phases, the city said, with the first phase tentatively scheduled for 2024.

Sue Spooner, whose family owns Spooner Berry Farms, said the farm has leased the land for 35 years.

“We always knew at some point it would probably be sold,” she said, noting they are open to the city’s offer of continuing the lease. “We’re hoping that works out.”

The city set a goal of adding 500 acres to its park system over 20 years in 2004, when voters passed a utility tax increase to pay for parks. This purchase would bring the total to 440 acres.

Already this year, the city has bought four properties and signed a purchase and sale agreement on a fifth. Combined, they will create two neighborhood parks and an expansion on the Karen Fraser Woodland Trail.

Abby Spegman: 360-704-6869