The property tax levy on the November ballot would provide operations and maintenance funds for Key Pen Parks.
The voters created the Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District in 2004, which replaced Key Peninsula Parks and Recreation District that dissolved in 2005.
The change was spurred by new state legislation that authorized metropolitan parks districts. The old district was funded only by a 1/10 of one cent per dollar sales tax, commonly referred to as Zoo Trek funds. Volunteer help was the norm to accomplish anything.
The new metropolitan park district also can collect funds through a property tax levy.
The Zoo Trek funds still provide about $110,000 per year. Property taxes have provided about $650,000 each year since 2008, but are expected to drop to nothing next year due to priorities in disbursement set by law.
The only assets of the old park district were Volunteer Park with its baseball diamonds –– built by volunteer help, as its name suggests –– and the 1.75 acre parcel of raw land in Home, obtained by Pierce County through a condemnation action, which has now become Home Park.
The new parks district paid the former district $30,600 for the two properties so that the old parks district could close its books with a zero balance.
A parks survey in 2007 identified that Key Peninsula residents wanted Key Pen Parks to concentrate most heavily on land acquisition and development of trails.
According to Key Pen Parks Executive Director Scott Gallacher, since 2008, Key Pen Parks has done the following:
• Invested $465,000 in improvements to Volunteer Park (only $140,000 of which came out of the budget, the remainder from grants).
• Spent $200,000 to develop Home Park.
• Acquired Rocky Creek Conservation Area (244 acres) through a lease that costs $1 per year.
• Acquired a Taylor Bay property (39 acres with 600 feet of shoreline) through $1.35 million in grants, with nothing spent from the parks budget.
• Acquired Minter Creek property (5 acres) costing $181,000, with only $90,500 from the parks budget.
• Acquired the 360 Trails property (360 acres) on a no-cost 50-year lease from DNR. The property is valued at $6.4 million.
• Acquired Maple Hollow (58 acres with 1,400 feet of beach) on a no-cost 50-year lease. The property is valued at $1.5 million. Improvements costing $188,000 were completed, with two-thirds coming from grants.
• Acquired Key Central Forest (480 acres) on a no-cost 50-year lease from DNR. The property is valued at $3.5 million.
• Acquired Ketchum Property (5 acres) purchased for $50,000 as a trailhead to Key Central Forest, that had no road access.
• Acquired Gateway Park (39 acres on SR-302), adjacent to 360 Trails. Purchased for $800,000, with one-half coming from grants.
Key Pen Parks now owns or controls 1,233 acres of park land with more than 10 miles of trails.
Pierce County had offered to transfer Purdy Spit and Devil’s Head to Key Pen Parks, but the commissioners rejected the offer because of liability issues or hidden costs for which no funds were available in the foreseeable future.
“The 2007 Comprehensive Plan tasked us with acquiring land, especially land with access to water,” Gallacher said.
“Future emphasis will be on developing these lands. With a total budget of less than $1 million per year for everything (maintenance, operations, capital investment, et cetera), we believe that we have done rather well.”
A dissenting voice comes from Bob Richardson, who resides next to the Minter Creek park property.
“The parks district should never have purchased the Minter Creek property. It is inappropriate for a park,” Richardson said. “There are no plans to develop this property. It’s long and narrow, in the middle of (zoned) R-10 residential land. We neighbors are being plagued with break-ins and thefts by people using this as an access to our private lands.”
Gallacher said the park commissioners chose to purchase that land.
“We are unable to sell it due to deed restrictions imposed by the grant monies used to purchase it. We will do the best we can with what we have,” he said.
KP Parks also has partnership and grant programs for community organizations, and a full slate of recreation programs and special events.
For details, go to keypenparks.com, or call 884-9240.