Howe Farm: Parking Lot Work to Begin Soon

Long-awaited improvements to Howe Farm, a county park in South Kitsap, will begin in early August. The park will be closed for up to three months during renovations.
Kitsap County commissioners on Monday gave final approval for spending $327,972 in capital facilities funds on paving and expanding the parking lot, building a single-stall restroom and finishing a fence around the dog off-leash area.
“This is the first step in the development of this park,” said Brian Lyman, project manager for the county’s Department of Facilities, Parks and Recreation.
The improvements are part of a master plan for the 83-acre park developed with public input, South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said. The money was authorized two years ago as part of the county’s parks improvement plan.
Despite the county’s budget woes, spending on projects like this is seen as cost-effective because they won’t require a lot of maintenance, Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said.
County officials are negotiating with three groups on use of the park. The South Kitsap School District hopes to use part of the land as an open-air learning lab for its agriculture students. The WSU Kitsap County Extension wants to hold gardening and other horticulture classes there, and Kitsap Dog Parks Inc. would like to develop trails for dog owners.
County commissioners in March endorsed the proposed partnerships. A public hearing will be part of the commissioners’ discussion of the proposal, said Lyman, who could not say when it would be placed on the agenda.
The school district has extensive plans for gardens and livestock areas that, along with extension gardens, would essentially transform the park into a working farm. Angel emphasized that public input would take place before any plans proceed.
“Obviously it’s a hot potato for the neighborhood, whether there are farm animals there,” she said. “I think there are things that could work well there and things that would not work so well.”
New North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer, the former Bellevue city manager, cited a similar project there. He said he was enthusiastic about the proposal for Howe Farm.
“At the risk of getting lots of phone calls and e-mail I don’t want, I’ll say I’m really excited about something like this. … It was wonderful seeing kids in this day and age getting up close with a farm animal.”
The dog park is another hot potato. With the fencing incomplete, some dog owners have been using areas outside the designated off-leash zone, a practice not endorsed by Kitsap Dog Parks Inc. Some people, dog owners among them, have objected to proposed plans for the park, saying the area should be left au natural.
Once the fencing is complete, Lyman said the it will be easier to keep dog owners in the off-leash zone.

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