Council approves 10-year park plan

OLYMPIA - The Olympia City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a 10-year plan for the city's parks.

The plan identifies the location of future parks and trails, maintains facilities, and directs programs and services.

It 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.

The council accepted most of the plan put forward by city staff members, but made a few tweaks Tuesday. Councilman Craig Ottavelli suggested language that would memorialize that the city now owns the artesian well on a former Diamond Parking lot on Fourth Avenue. Ottavelli’s language, which was approved, assures access to the well.

Mayor Doug Mah suggested making Chambers Lake Community Park’s design and development a higher priority than phase two of improving Grass Lake Refuge. He cited the growth in the area. The project was moved up to the 2012-2015 period, and Grass Lake was moved to 2016-2019.

Councilwoman Karen Rogers expressed concern that the Grass Lakes Refuge would cost more – $1 million versus $900,000 – and questioned moving the higher-cost item ahead of the lower-cost one.

Councilwoman Rhenda Strub said the plan is just that, and the City Council has the discretion to allocate parks spending in the budget each year.

The city’s parks department developed the plan after many months of public input. Based on that, the plan suggests the city enter into a “public-private partnership” for a park on the downtown isthmus and a west side plaza.

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 council will likely make the downzone permanent at the end of the year.

The west side plaza is championed by the West Olympia Community Visioning Group, a nonprofit that has a contract for a 27-acre property on Harrison Avenue just west of Cooper Point Road. The land could have an amphitheater, an environmental learning center, a bell tower and a dog park. It could be operated either by the nonprofit or the city. Funding for the development has not been identified.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com