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Tristan Baurick, the Kitsap Sun's outdoors and public lands reporter, writes about hiking, biking, kayaking and everything else Kitsapers do under the sun.
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Private house in a public park?

November 18th, 2013 by tristan baurick

NicksHouse

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.

NicksLagoonMap

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.

Look close. There's a trailhead there.

Look close. There’s a trailhead there.

Wide trail may have been a road.

Wide trail may have been a road.

Small bridges span the park's salmon-bearing streams.

Small bridges span the park’s salmon-bearing streams.

Chairs brought in by neighbors.

Chairs brought in by neighbors.

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5 Responses to “Private house in a public park?”

  1. Scott Hall Says:

    Hi there,

    I know the county has several properties that are rentals in public parks.

    My question is, why is this possible…. since the county’s zoning code, (in the table of allowed uses) indicates that “dwelling units” i.e., occupied structures…… are a prohibited use for land zoned as park land.

    Regardless of whether there was a house there when the property was acquired, any continued use of a “dwelling unit” after the property is acquired, and placed on the comprehensive land use map as “park” land would seem contrary to the zoning code.

    At best, it’s a “nonconforming use” and I don’t think the county’s desire for rental income is a good excuse for not coming into conformance with the zoning the county itself applied to the property.

    Just Sayin’

  2. Exit43 Says:

    What kind of rent does the county charge for an improperly zoned house?

  3. Vivian Henderson Says:

    Comment to follow once I have studied the subject.

  4. MaryKay Says:

    Hi, thanks very much for revealing the alternative entrance. I too was taken aback at the trek through the private yard as I explored this pleasant park a couple of months ago. I’ll happily try the other route. There were resident loose dogs if I recall correctly so another route helps me manage with my 3 leashed ones.

  5. Nehruboy Says:

    Visited Nick’s Lagoon today for the first time(11-23-2013)and found the alternate trail. A beaver-dammed pond overflows much of it making it a mucky mess. The small pooch and I, now both caked in crud, continued on to the lagoon which was also an impassable mess down to the beach due to the cleanup effort (GREAT job though). There were dogs barking at the residence so we opted to hike back out the way we came… not a pleasant experience (twice) this time of the year. That all being said, it’s a beautiful park and I look forward to visiting again in the drier months. It hasn’t rained in a week or more so without rubber boots or hip waders I’d call this way in more likely NOT the way in. I’m delighted to know this place exist… thanks Tristan. ;-)

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