The park commission president wants to get more kids involved with the parks. 

Mark Michel is running against incumbent John Kelly for Key Pen Parks commissioner position 3 in the November election. Michel currently holds commissioner position 1 and is president of the board of commissioners.

“I have a lot of pride in what the parks have done,” Michel said. “My thing has been mountain biking and the trails, and it’s gone incredibly well.”

Michel was originally encouraged to run for a fire commissioner position, but “felt more of a draw towards the parks, to try to get the kids involved and provide them with a positive outlet.”

Michel’s interest in biking was sparked when he was a paper boy in Reno, Nevada, at 8 years old. “I would always ride my bike,” he said. “Then when they came out with the first mountain bikes, just a bike with fat tires, it opened up the whole rest of the world.”

As parks commissioner, Michel has worked to promote racing at 360 Trails. “When I heard there was a student league, I worked to recruit racers here so they could see that this park was a viable venue for races.

“You have to figure out what works and then try to put it together. Have the ambition to go fix it.”

“When I got the first promoter to come out and look at the trails, it was December. It was like 34 degrees and pouring rain with intermittent snow,” Michel said. “I know that those shots, those opportunities, don’t come every day. So, I committed to it. We went on the ride and (Rory Muller) said, ‘These trails are great!’ ” BuDu Racing has had one of its races every year at 360 Trails since then.

Hundreds of cyclists competed in the state championship mountain bike race at 360 Trails in 2018. In April 2019, the student league hosted 534 racers there for Pedaling the Peninsula. This year a new youth mountain biking team, the Key Peninsula Pirates, was also established.

“It’s been so inspiring to see how well that has worked out,” Michel said. “I’m just insanely grateful for the people who’ve been able to put themselves in positions to help out, whether it’s Courtland Capwell, the trail builder, or any of the trail committee people who’ve stepped up.

“As far as 360 goes, I really love where we’re at right now. The trails are just so incredible, I would say at this point it’s almost just maintenance. We need to make sure they don’t fall into disrepair and get overgrown.”

Looking ahead, Michel would like to see “more people on the trails that aren’t being used, whether that’s Maple Hollow, Taylor Bay or Rocky Creek.” Michel also hopes for “more kids’ programs, more recreation, and more involvement.”

“One of the leading arguments in my mind is, what are we doing for future generations?” Michel said. “I don’t like when people just want to tear down something but don’t have a good solution for the future. Provide us something that says, ‘This is a better way,’ and do it in a respectful way.

“You have to figure out what works and then try to put it together,” he said. “Have the ambition to go fix it.”

Michel moved to the Key Peninsula from Gig Harbor in 2002 and served as Evergreen Elementary PTA president prior to becoming a parks commissioner in 2011. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1987 to 1998 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Oregon. Michel has been a pilot with Alaska Airlines since 1997. 

“I won’t feel badly if I don’t win, because I know what I’ve done for the parks district,” Michel said. “I’ll still be involved and I’ll still be able to get stuff done, but I feel like I still have some unfinished business.”

A Conversation with U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer
Candidate for Key Pen Parks Commissioner Position 3: John Kelly