Grinter: Put the breaks on state parks tranfer plan

Bainbridge trails advocate John Grinter writes that Bainbridge needs to slow down and reassess plans to take on two state parks slated for closure. Grinter is the vice chair of the city’s Non-Motorized Transportation Advisory Committee and was a lead community organizer for the 2004 petition drive to create the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park District. Below is Grinter’s letter.

I am a strong supporter of Bainbridge parks and I believe our local park board is moving too quickly to bail out the state park system with the transfer of both Fay Bainbridge and Fort Ward state parks.

I don’t believe careful consideration has been given to the long-term impact on other well-planned community goals. The local (park) board is talking about making a permanent financial commitment of millions when they should be talking about helping the state in a short term, interim manner while we weather this economic crisis. Perhaps most troubling of all is the speed at which it is happening and the nearly complete lack of public process regarding the transfer.

At the state level we need to be asking our local legislators how it is that both our island state parks ended up on this list and what is being done to solve the bigger problems of the state park agency. Why, during such hard economic times, are we reducing a low-cost recreational option for folks who can’t afford an expensive vacation? Shouldn’t we revisit a user fee? Experts have said that a fee of one or two dollars per car would solve all the state park budget problems. Let’s institute that fee, spread the cost around, improve operational efficiencies and find a way to keep our parks open.

Locally, neither Fay Bainbridge or Ft. Ward is in short-term danger of being sold for private development. The gates may be closed for a while but the land is still protected and the public will still have access, so why the rush? In the meantime a long list of community prioritized projects are jeopardized if the transfer happens. Here’s a partial list: an island-wide trail system, th senior/community center, Pritchard Park, Blakely Harbor Park, Strawberry Plant Park, improving the teen center, improving the Big Kids programs, more active-use areas, more parks in Winslow…..

Looking more closely at trails – after years of work, we’re only a dozen or so easements away from connecting the island from Lynwood Center to Port Madison with a network of pathways and trails. A myriad of other low-cost/high-return non-motorized connections have been planned jointly by the city and park district. The public has spoken clearly and consistently in support of trail connections. How does the park board propose to keep the promise made to the community during the levy campaign for trail development and maintenance if all the development money from the levy is spent on these two state parks?

There simply has not been enough discussion for the district to move forward with such a permanent and costly decision. To date there has been only one poorly advertised meeting by the State Parks and none by the local board. The negotiating stance portrayed in both local papers makes it sound like it’s a done deal except for some fine details. Let’s hope that’s not the case. The public voted for the levy increase with trust in the park district. Let’s put the brakes on, slow things down a bit, have more public input, and make a solid, thoughtful decision. It’s a huge commitment and we need to get it right.

John Grinter

One thought on “Grinter: Put the breaks on state parks tranfer plan

  1. I agree with the author. It feels like all things financial on the island these days are being dealt with in a knee-jerk and obscured manner, leaving one to think those in charge are either amateurs or serving selfish interests.

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