New park in Olympia? Consultant rates five potential sites and picks the best one

Olympia has released a report that examines five possible locations for a new park with athletic fields, an off-leash dog area, open space and more.

Results from the Olympia Community Park Suitability Assessment were presented Tuesday to the Olympia City Council during a special study session.

In July, the city hired a consultant for $60,000 to evaluate five sites. In his report, landscape architect Bob Droll determined that the Spooner Berry Farm off Yelm Highway was the best candidate for a new park.

Located in southeast Olympia, the parcel measures 84.6 acres. The report concludes that the Yelm Highway site would be the most cost efficient to develop and would require the least amount of clearing, grading and maintenance. The site is also ideal because of its proximity to roads and transit, Droll said.

Although the Spooner Farm site is not on the market, city staff have approached the landowner and “the seller is willing,” Droll said. The estimated cost for building the park — excluding the land purchase — is about $13.3 million with an annual maintenance cost of about $300,000. A park at the site has the potential to bring in $244,000 a year in field rental revenue, according to the study.

“I don’t think you’re going to find a better site,” Droll said.

Four other sites were examined in the study:

multiple legal hurdles.

The study was launched at the request of the LBA Woods Park Coalition, a well-organized group of citizens that has been lobbying the city to protect 150 wooded acres in southeast Olympia. The coalition is focused on the Bentridge and Trillium properties, and supporters have urged the city to buy those parcels before they’re sold to housing developers.

According to the consultant, a park at either site would result in losing a significant portion of the wooded areas that the coalition is trying to protect.

At Tuesday’s study session and subsequent council meeting, dozens of residents showed up at City Hall, carrying signs and wearing T-shirts with the “Save LBA Woods” message. At least a dozen people spoke during public comment in favor of protecting the two parcels that border LBA Park. One commenter, Bob Wadsworth, simply showed photos of several bird species that have been identified at the woods.

Coalition member Jeff Marti submitted a petition signed by more than 5,200 people from all over Olympia.

“This is not just a neighborhood issue. This is a community issue,” Marti told the council. “Nature is something that endures as a value and is something that Olympia values very dearly.”

The Olympia parks department will hold eight neighborhood meetings through January to gather feedback and determine which park amenities should be a priority. Parks director Paul Simmons reiterated that the suitability study is a planning document, and represents one piece of an ongoing process to update the city’s parks plan.