Private house in a public park?November 18th, 2013 by tristan baurick
I wrote this week about Nick’s Lagoon, a 35-acre Kitsap County park at the head of Seabeck Bay. The story focused on the state’s effort to cleanup about 15 tons of sea junk that had washed into the park’s lagoon and estuary.
But one thing that struck me – and a few readers – about the park was the fact that there is a private home within the park’s boundaries.
When I visited Nick’s Lagoon on Wednesday, I parked at 8422 Miami Beach Rd. near the small sign marking the property as a public park. It’s few feet from a gated driveway with no place to park. I parked there anyway, took a few steps down the driveway and found myself in the yard of someone’s house. I worried that I had misunderstood the sign and ended up a trespasser.
A friendly guy at the house assured me that I was, indeed, in Nick’s Lagoon Park and that I was free to roam wherever I wanted.
He told me he’s a friend of the renter, a former county employee who has lived in the rambler-style house for about two years.
The house and its large lawn overlook the lagoon, and there’s a small set of stairs to the shore.
According to county property records, the house was built in 1951. It’s just over 1,300 square feet in size and valued at $208,000.
I later learned the county rents out nine houses on park properties. Even the county public works department has a house or two with tenants, park staff said.
I asked the guy at the house if it’s a pain having strangers walking through the front yard or blocking the driveway.
It’s not really a problem, he said, because few people ever visit.
“You mean like a dozen a month?” I asked.
“If that,” he said.
I asked what visitors do when they stop by. He pointed to a handmade sign marked “trailhead” on the other side of the yard.
More of a deer path than a trail, I lost sight of it fairly quickly, and ended up stumbling through swamp, streams, woods and then some guy’s back yard (He was mowing his lawn. Told me I’m the first person he’s seen in the park in a long time). The actual trail, I found, steers clear of the shoreline and cuts south through the woods to Miami Beach Road.
There were a few small bridges over streams and a picnic shelter on the trail. A park official told me these were installed shortly after the county purchased the property in 2003.
Local schools used the property for salmon education programs. The house was used as a sort of classroom. Park staff are a little foggy on the details, but it seems that the salmon education programs stopped around the time Seabeck Elementary, which is a few blocks away, closed in 2007.
The parks department began renting the house as a private residence about four years ago.
If you’d like to visit Nick’s Lagoon, don’t park where I parked. There’s an unmarked trailhead at another spot on Miami Beach Road. It’s a bit overgrown, but look for the two short wooden posts at the trail’s start. See the map I’ve included.
There’s space for two vehicles at the trailhead. The trail meanders through wetlands populated with herons, ducks, beaver and otter. After a few minutes, you’ll arrive at the picnic shelter and the water’s edge. Low tide will allow you to hike out to the sandy spit where the state Department of Natural Resources has a crew chopping up and hauling out all the sea junk this week.
The trail continues north to the house, but if you’re not into the whole hangout-in-a-stranger’s-yard experience, I’d head back the way you came.