Commissioners Say Whoa Nellie to Proposed Parks Capital Projects Plan

This is the second story in a two-part series on county parks. Today, we’ll look at a proposal for capital projects that didn’t pass the sniff test with the county’s board of commissioners.

For an inventory of Kitsap County parks, visit the home page of the Department of Facilities, Parks and recreation.

By Chris Henry
Port Orchard
The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners is looking at ways to prune its parks department’s budget without cutting the life out of facilities and programs. The board is exploring ways to trim expenses and boost revenues for parks, as for all other departments, due to a projected budget shortfall beginning in 2008.
At a study session May 23, the board looked at a six-year plan for capital improvements that was drawn up before the budget cutting began.
“This isn’t ready for prime time,” declared North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen, who, with the other commissioners, sent the document back to the parks department for retooling.
Central Kitsap Comissioner Josh Brown said he strongly disagrees with a part of the plan that calls for $6.5 million in spending on capital projects for parks over the next six years. The money, it is proposed, would come from 30-year bonds paid for out of the county’s real estate excise tax.
“I’m not comfortable spending millions of dollars today on parks and facilities when we don’t have money to maintain them,” he said.
Endresen concurred.
“These are big projects, she said of the proposed list, which could see significant changes before finalization, given budget constraints. “We shouldn’t be looking at what we’re going to do in a vacuum.”
Brown said everyone at the county involved with parks and recreation will have to “think outside the box” to provide ongoing funding for facilities and programs. He added the community needs to “step up and support” the parks and programs that matter the most to them.
“We’ve got to be up front with the community and tell them we’re not going to be able to provide the discretionary spending we have in the past,” he said.
Asked to prioritize parks projects in his district, Brown said he would like to see finalization of a proposed land swap with the state’s Department of Natural resources that would complete acquisition of land for Newberry Hill Heritage Park. The county owns land in the Chico Creek watershed that it would trade with DNR for a parcel adjacent to the 300 acres already owned in the Newberry Hill area. The combined parcels would give Central Kitsap roughly 1,000 acres of “heritage parks” open space.
In South Kitsap, Commissioner Jan Angel would like to see field development at South Kitsap Community Park, which the county has agreed to take over from the South Kitsap Parks & Recreation Board of Directors. During discussions with the board, Angel promised $2.19 million in money for field improvements at the park over the next six years. Also high on her list of priorities are completion of the parking lot and restrooms at Howe Farm, and improvements to ball fields at Veteran’s Park.
Endresen said her “number one” priority has always been North Kitsap Heritage Park, where the first phase of improvements is under way. She would also like to see the county complete acquisition of the Point No Point Lighthouse and make a determination on buildings at Norwegian Park. The county has purchased former Navy Housing units at the site that would complete the plan for Kingston’s Village Green. The county will be reimbursed for the purchase with state grant money.

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