County’s 2008 pledge to South Kitsap park mostly fulfilled

The editor’s rejected my suggested headline, “Pigs fly at skatepark groundbreaking,” which was made of course tongue in cheek for today’s story about big news for South Kitsap Regional Park.

The start of construction on the skatepark is a milestone for the park, which the county acquired in 2008 from a floundering South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District. Much planning and design has been done. But except for a new playground installed in 2010 and renovation of existing ballfields, there hasn’t been a lot of visible evidence of progress at the park, in which former South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel pledged the county would invest $2.19 million (see below for where the money spent so far has gone).

In 2007, not all of South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District members were down with the proposed transfer. District commissioners felt protective of the 200-acre park that they’d been unable to maintain, and some believed the county would sell of some of the mostly forested land.

The late Margie Rees, a parks district commissioner, and her husband Leon offered the district a loan of $13,000 to help it pay off an election debt that the county was holding over the district’s head as leverage for the park take-over. And the emotion-landen battle got even crazier, as community members who sided with the county accused the district of setting fire to an equipment shed insurance fraud. The parks district netted $20,000 in an insurance settlement from an equipment shed fire at the park. The district indicated it would use the settlement toward the election debt. Kathryn Simpson and Judi Edwards, who initiated the investigation, accused the district of inflating the cost of lost materials. The district was cleared of the charges and the transfer went forward by a single-vote majority on the split district board of commissioners.

Angel promised, and the agreement stated, that the park would remain a park in perpetuity. The $2.19 million was a carrot held out as incentive and reward. Angel envisioned the renovated park as a “shining jewel in South Kitsap’s crown.”

Here’s a timeline, showing circumstances that contributed to delays in development of the park. Below that is the county’s accounting of where the $2.19 million has gone (and how much is left on the original pledge).

South Kitsap Regional Park Timeline
2007: Kitsap County acquires park from South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District, an effort led by South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel.
2008: Skatepark supporters formalize as the nonprofit South Kitsap Skatepark Association.
November 2008: County completes a 13-month public master planning process.
January 2009: Charlotte Garrido becomes South Kitsap Commissioner as the county makes deep budget cuts due to the recession.
June 2009: Longtime Parks and Recreation Director Chip Faver steps down.
November 2009: New parks head Jim Dunwiddie takes the reins from interim director Arvilla Ohlde.
October 2010: Park Project Manager Martha Droge leaves. Her position remains vacant due to budget constraints until summer, 2012.
March 2011: SKSPA toys with the idea of a smaller skatepark in the city of Port Orchard.
June 2011: SKSPA scores a $75,000 grant from the Birkenfeld Trust. Permitting for skatepark is under way.
Sept. 10: County signs contract with Grindline Skateparks for phase I and II of the skatepark.
Sept. 29: Groundbreaking at the park
March 2013: Estimated opening of skatepark.

South Kitsap Regional Park by the numbers
Kitsap County’s funding commitment to the park: $2.19 million
Source of county funds (2007): Park capital, $1.45 million; sale of surplus land, $220,500 ($1.67 million total); Washington State Recreation and Conservation Grant, $500,000
Donations: South Kitsap Skatepark Association $108,000 (for skatepark); Chuck Jeu family, $14,519 (earmarked for future tennis courts)

Cost Summary
Master plan: $354,548
General design, engineering, soil and traffic studies, $338,935
Design of skatepark, $32,952
Design of roads and paths, $13,433
Athletic field renovation, $13,080
Testing and permits, $17,511
Playground purchase and installation, $205,489
Skatepark phase I and II construction and path grading, $740,478

Total park expenditures through March 2013: $1,716,426 (including $500,000 RCO grant and $108,000 from SKSPA)
County’s total expenditures to date: about $1.65 million
Remainder of county’s 2007 commitment of 2.19 million: approximately $500,000.
Next steps: Grading near north entrance for future ballfields and “traffic safety improvements” at both entrances. Not on the radar in the immediate future, new restrooms, which were listed as a high priority during the public planning process.
The county is well-positioned to received a state grant in 2013 of nearly $150,000.

6 thoughts on “County’s 2008 pledge to South Kitsap park mostly fulfilled

  1. According to the Kitsap Sun’s numbers:

    $757,369 has been spent on designs and permits.

    $740,478 has been spent on Skate Park construction (and path grading).

    Only $218,569 has been spent on any visible improvement other than the Skatepark work.

    The ‘progress’ at the park has been heavy on design and very short on tangible work product. Our community deserves better!

  2. I should buffer my comment a bit. The park is in much better shape in the hands of Kitsap County. The fields are in far better shape and usable by youth sports clubs, the new playground is nice (though I still know many parents afraid to have their young children in the park), and there is a gorgeous master plan.

    However, the progress has been painfully slow. I would have preferred less spending on design (that may/may not ever come to fruition) and more spending on tangible progress.

    Restrooms and a concession stand should have been amongst the first tangibles installed. With as many families that use the park during sports seasons, this could have been win-win and revenue positive.

    As one of the most vocal of activists to get the park into the County’s hands and an elected official familiar with bureaucratic red tape, I understand that progress can be slow. But four years and still we have honey buckets at the park instead of real restrooms? That is painfully slow progress.

  3. Chris! You need to edit your article! Community members didn’t accuse the Park District of “setting fire to an equipment shed.”
    “Community members” asked that the park District be investigated for inflating the value of the items lost. You owe an apology and a correction!

  4. Judi makes a very good point. The fire was suspicious and deemed arson, but our request focused on the insurance claim not blame for the fire.

  5. Kathryn and Judi – I take your point. I have made the correction and I apologize for the error.

    What is almost buried in collective memory is that transfer of the park to the county came about in large part as a result of the county’s threat of litigation over the district’s election debt. While some members of the parks district board recognized their inability to continue maintaining the park, others resisted. The insurance investigation you launched seemed an attempt to thwart members of the parks board who were resisting the transfer by trying to raise funds to pay off the debt.

    I hereby express no opinion on either party’s actions. I raise the details to recall one last time that transfer of the park to the county was a prickly process and that members of the community on both sides of the issue were emotionally invested in the park.

    Chris Henry

  6. Thanks for the correction, Chris.

    It was very unfortunate that things became ‘prickly’ and contentious. Ultimately, the right thing happened and the property was transferred to a steward that could ‘grow the park’. 🙂

    I am grateful for those who worked hard to make that happen. Now, I hope there will be more folks that will continue to press the County to invest in parks and recreation in South Kitsap so that the park becomes a great asset to our children and families for generations.

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