Olympia explores potential park sites as coalition pushes for property purchase

The Olympia City Council deliberated Tuesday on a proposed study for five potential community parks.

Parks Director Paul Simmons said the public wants more city-owned soccer fields, along with amenities such as a dog park, community gardens and more trails. The proposed study would determine which site could best suit these needs and address “deficiencies” in the park system, Simmons told the council.

“The last time we built a community park with athletic fields was Yauger Park in 1982,” Simmons said Tuesday. “These are monumental investments with lasting impacts on the community. If we make an investment of this magnitude, we need to make sure we make a decision that is based on the best information available.”

The council approved a first reading for allocating $60,000 to pursue a feasibility study for the following sites: Bentridge and Trillium properties, located adjacent to LBA Park in southeast Olympia; the Cooper Point Road Sundberg gravel pit, located on the city’s west side; the area between Lindell and Lister roads in northeast Olympia; and Spooner Berry Farm on Yelm Highway in southeast Olympia.

The proposal will return to the council for a second reading at the July 15 meeting. If approved, the city would then hire a consultant to study the sites and rate them based on several criteria such as parcel size, zoning, topography, utility availability and more.

There is also a time element in the proposed study because one of the sites is for sale. In June, the Parks, Arts and Recreation Advisory Committee recommended an urgent study – at the request of the LBA Woods Park Coalition - on the Bentridge parcel that’s on the market for $6.5 million.

The LBA Woods Park Coalition is a group of residents advocating for the city to purchase properties adjacent to LBA Park. Known as Bentridge and Trillium, the two properties are slated for housing developments. Coalition supporters say these wooded parcels – with a combined 150 acres – need to be preserved as recreational space for the community.

Coalition chairman Jeff Marti said more than 4,800 people have signed a petition that supports the city’s purchase of these properties. At Tuesday’s meeting, Marti said the coalition appreciates the city’s willingness to evaluate potential park sites, but said the criteria lacks crucial aspects.

“There should also be consideration of the high quality open space and habitat values that are available,” Marti told The Olympian. “That’s our concern with the scoping criteria moving forward.”

Mayor Stephen Buxbaum expressed concerns about the financial impact of purchasing new park land – namely, whether the city could afford to meet the community’s expectations while also addressing long-term deficiencies in the city’s park system.

“I feel like I have been spending five and a half years on the council dealing with problems that have been passed forward by previous councils in reactive purchase decisions,” Buxbaum said Tuesday. “I want us to be deliberate in this analysis so we don’t pass a problem forward.”