Get Ready for Spring
Springtime around the Key Peninsula is always beautiful; nature awakens and rebuilds itself as buds begin to bloom.
Things will be getting a little messy at Volunteer Park in a few months, and if things continue to go well with the progress of the new Gateway Park, you’ll soon be seeing a mess there, too. And these messes mean good things are being done.
Key Pen Parks staff and supporters have an extra spring in our steps as we look forward to some exciting times in 2016. Funds awarded to the parks in 2015 mean we are able to move forward with some long-anticipated modifications to the vibrant Volunteer Park and the birth of a brand-new recreation destination: Gateway Park.
Progress made toward near and distant future projects
We had a successful first committee meeting in August to plan the new Gateway Park playground. Those in attendance were asked to look through various vendor catalogues and highlight playground components they would like to see at the new park. There were many great ideas suggested and some consistencies in the committee members’desires.
As you may recall from the July 2015 Key Peninsula News article, Key Pen Parks learned earlier this year that we were awarded a $500,000 matching grant for Gateway Park development as part of the state legislature’s 2015-17 capital budget. This unexpected money will now allow us to jump start the Phase 1 plans of the project, including the design and construction of a new destination playground.
Immediately following the first committee meeting, I submitted the feedback and ideas to several playground vendors with the request that they use the information to draw up sample playground plans.
We anticipate receiving these drawings in the first week of October. Shortly thereafter, these drawings will be available for viewing by the general public. We will also open an online voting platform for the public to choose their favorite layouts, keeping in mind that the final design will remain fluid. If all goes well with permitting and any unplanned delays are avoided, we could see a playground as early as summer 2017.
When so much of the time of running a park district is spent in laying foundations for future projects, it is energizing to work on something so close to being tangible.
Another project still in a lengthy foundation laying phase but which recently had some activity is Key Central Forest. Similarly to 360 Trails, the 480-acre Key Central Forest is managed by Key Pen Parks through a 50-year lease from the property owner, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It is located north of Key Center and Vaughn between Wright Bliss Road and Key Peninsula Highway North.
Last month, DNR acted on a federal mandate to remove some culverts that existed on this property in an effort to enhance the salmon habitat in Vaughn Creek, which runs through Key Central Forest. We partnered with DNR and granted them access to the property via an easement through an adjacent Key Pen Parks-owned parcel off Wright Bliss Road in exchange for DNR clearing enough trees and bulldozing land to form a forest access road. They will sell the felled trees –– about 15 acres worth in total –– to pay for the clearing of our property.
This new road, although rough, is one of the first stages of laying the foundation for the future public access and development of Key Central Forest. For now; however, the road will give Key Pen Parks the ability to maintain this property on both sides of Vaughn Creek for the foreseeable future.
It is partnerships like this one with DNR, as well as the generous involvement of our community members, which help Key Pen Parks leverage resources so we can continue to build for the recreation future of the Key Peninsula.
As spring reaches into the summer season and the warmer weather tempts people out of their homes, I’m reminded of our emerging and blossoming community.
Although we are connected to each other by a preference for a quiet lifestyle, Key Peninsula is growing in resident numbers. Many local organizations have been planning for the future growth of our peninsula. Key Pen Parks is also looking toward the future and how we play a role in the enrichment of our community.
Over the past months, we have been busy on several new things. In brief, we launched a new website, which hopefully makes it easier for you to find information you are seeking related to our parks and park business. We also created a brochure that you can find throughout the greater Gig Harbor area.
We started a new event this year, the 360 Trails Poker Pedal. This unique event raised money for the further development of 360 Trails.
If you haven’t been lately, there are new trails to enjoy and we have dotted the landscape with information kiosks that show your location, but also have a quick response (QR) code that puts the trail map right on your smart phone.
Looking ahead to this summer, we are excited about a few new youth camps and events coming up. The closest event is the Fourth of July Community Hot Dog Social. With the support of Food Market of the Key Center and Lake Katheryn, residents are invited to come and meet their friends and neighbors for a free hot dog lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Volunteer Park. We will have games and music, and hope you will join the fun.
Of course, the big project that we’re working on will be one of Key Pen Park’s largest future community enrichment contributions: Gateway Park. In my last column, I talked about the public input process on developing a conceptual plan for the 39-acre park.
A master plan (concept E-1) was approved by the park district’s board of commissioners at the March 9 board meeting, as was the motion to move forward with phase 1 of construction. At completion, phase 1 includes redesigning existing entrances with street lighting, paving the west parking lot and adding a toilet structure. We encourage everyone to follow the Gateway Park progress on our website.
We have increased our grant application efforts to enhance and possibly help expedite the Gateway project, one of which is the Pierce County Conservation Futures Program grant. The Key Peninsula Parks and Recreation Foundation also is working on fundraising plans.
I hope by my next column, we’ll have good news regarding the Conservation Futures grant and will be well underway with the permitting process for phase 1 construction.
The change of season brings increased energy levels and optimism, and for us at Key Pen Parks, we are very optimistic about the future of recreational opportunities for the Key Peninsula.
Guest column by Scott Gallacher
This year began on a great note for Key Pen Parks with the passing of our audit at the end of December. For those of you unfamiliar with audits, this is a multi-day process of reviewing all financial statements, policies and other business practices and documents by the Washington State Auditor’s Office.
Our auditor said there were “no findings, exceptions or notes,” which is very good. This means Key Pen Parks is conducting business in a lawful and ethical manner consistent with high standards.
With the audit complete, we were able to focus our attention on a more exciting project: The new Gateway Park.
Key Pen Parks strategically purchased the 39-acre Gateway Park property in 2012 because of its relatively flat terrain and its ability to provide better public access to 360 Trails. It also meets a strong need to have a developed park in the Key Peninsula’s most densely-populated north area.
Since the land acquisition was finalized, ample feedback on the future of Gateway Park was collected from local citizens through public workshops, emails and phone calls. We also queried attendees of KeyFest and the KP Farm Tour. Key Pen Parks and our board of directors felt it was critical that the public have opportunities to let their desires be heard.
Guest Column by Scott Gallacher
Ideas from the feedback were developed into three conceptual drawings which were presented at the last public workshop Dec. 6. More than 50 people attended to view the three concepts, which included features like a playground, splash pad, athletic fields, multi-use buildings and an equine arena. Attendees were then given the opportunity to discuss these concepts in smaller groups.
Park design landscape architect, Robert Droll, and I then analyzed and have applied the additional feedback from the final public workshop into a “Concept D.” This final concept will be presented to the public at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, March 4, at Minter Creek Elementary School.
During the presentation, Droll will discuss the technical background of the design, the future possibilities, and what the public can expect in terms of construction phases and timelines. For example, phase one will likely include improving access from State Route 302, parking and restroom facilities. We will also touch on how the environment and site constraints play a role in the current design and potential future adjustments.
The name “Gateway Park” reflects the future this park will have as a gateway to the Key Peninsula and a showcase of our wonderful community. It will be a destination to be enjoyed by multiple interests and multiple generations.
This is an exciting time for Key Peninsula and the greater Gig Harbor area. We hope to see you on March 4.
Next month: Are you looking for an Earth Day project? Parks Appreciation Day is April 25. I’ll tell you about it – and how you and your family can make this event an annual tradition.