Olympia may close downtown park because of issues at artesian well

The Olympia City Council is expected to consider a recommendation to close the new park at the historic artesian well when it meets Tuesday night (Dec. 16).

The Artesian Commons park opened May 3 in a parking lot at 415 Fourth Ave. in downtown Olympia. Since then, the 0.2-acre park has attracted criticism for the behavior of some park users.

Last Thursday, the city’s Land Use and Environment Committee agreed to recommend that the council temporarily close the park that surrounds the well, but not the well itself. If the council decides to fence off the park, the public would still have access to the artesian well and the portable toilets on the site, according to Parks Director Paul Simmons.

The city has received complaints about violence, vandalism, drug use and smoking at the park. To help curb destructive behavior, the council approved $25,000 in September for the installation of a basketball hoop and fencing at the park. In October, a blue and white “creek” was painted on the asphalt to create a winding path that connects the park’s two entrances. The total cost of the Artesian Commons project to date is about $253,000, according to the city.

Simmons told The Olympian there are no plans to permanently close the park. However, a permanent fence is necessary to close the park at night and deter unwanted behaviors, he said.

Word has spread in the community about the possible park closure. Longtime downtown activist David Fawver told The Olympian he is trying to change the plan. He suggested allowing outreach trailers on the site to connect downtown youth with mental health and chemical dependency services, for example.

“That would change the mood,” said Fawver, adding that he has been working with people on Olympia’s streets for 23 years.

The city council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Dec. 16) at City Hall, located at Fourth Avenue and Cherry Street in downtown Olympia. It is the last council meeting of 2014. There is no formal agenda item listed for the Artesian Commons discussion.