A new picnic shelter, donated by the KP Lions, sits proudly at Home Park, beckoning area residents for a late summer picnic. New playground equipment has been installed, and a concrete restroom is underway. So why now, this late in the game, are some neighbors balking at park improvements that have been in the works since 2005?
According to a letter to KP News, Michael Kelley that “there is no pressing need for areas for children to play in the area, as there is a fully developed play and recreation area 2 miles from the site.” He also asserted in a phone interview, “Nobody is going to use it, and we’re all going to have to pay to maintain it.”
Susan Reed, a member of the Home Park Committee that has been working on the playground project, disagrees. “Volunteer Park is not somewhere you can take your child,” Reed said. “In two seconds, they’re going to be done with that stuff. It is not a true playground. A structured playground that is contained within an area attracts other kids and offers social interaction. That park is mainly for specific sports-related things my child is not old enough to participate in. Everywhere I go, all the moms lament that if they want to go to a playground and get interaction for their child, they have to go to Gig Harbor.”
While other neighbors are not fundamentally opposed to the park, some have doubts about the extent to which it is being developed. Shonda Allen, who lives northwest of the park, said, “I don’t think that the neighbors are complaining necessarily about the park itself. The biggest complaint is that there is so much of it. We are concerned about graffiti, the spillover and that it is going to be so overcrowded. There’s too much in a small area. I do think it will look nice, but my main concern is traffic on the road and there is no crosswalk at all. If they scaled it back and made it more of a neighborhood park, I would back it 100 percent and I would be helping.”
According to Scott Gallacher, Key Pen Parks executive director, the neighbors asked the district to help get the speed limit reduced on 8th Street and have crosswalks installed. However, his reach only goes as far as petitioning the Pierce County Public Works and Utilities Department for the improvements. “We have taken steps to move this forward, but the county would like time evaluate the traffic impacts once the park is in,” Gallacher said.
Questions about how the well was decommissioned have also been raised. However, according to a staff report by Gallacher, originally the Tacoma-Pierce Health Department said to “pump out the water, fill in the well with rocks and natural material from Home Park and replace the concrete lid.” Later, the district was informed the well needed to be decommissioned per Revised Code of Washington. At that point, the district contracted with Nicholson Drilling to decommission the well according to the code. Questions regarding the removal of the septic system were also raised, but the system had been removed prior to the current park district taking ownership.
While the vocal few have seemed to have grabbed the media’s attention, the silent majority seem unconcerned about the improvements. Marianne McColley, whose property lies east of the park, said, “It doesn’t seem to be terribly over used at this point. I’m just wondering if perhaps it will be better used with the children’s play area there. I’m a fairly neutral neighbor. They just need to remember what it used to be—a place where refrigerators went to die.”
Melvin Miles, also a nearby neighbor, concurred with McColley. “It hasn’t gotten much use in the past,” Miles said. “Now it might get more use with the picnic pavilion and whatnot. I’m not opposed to it. As far as I’m concerned, parks are always a good thing.”
Elmer Anderson, president of the park district Board of Commissioners, said many of the neighbors are enthusiastic about the playground installation. “We had a lot of spontaneous help that came over and said, ‘What can we do?’” Anderson said. “Some just pitched right in and helped. Others just said, ‘We can’t wait for this thing to go up.’”
Now that the picnic pavilion and play structures have been installed, the next steps include curbing, wood chips and fencing. A grand opening is scheduled for mid-September.
In the meantime, the Home Parks Committee is continuing to seek sponsorships and donations for benches, picnic tables, barbecue pits and other components.
Key Pen Parks will officially open Home Park Playground and Picnic Shelter on Tuesday, Sept. 16 at the park. Time to be announced. Home Park is the first neighborhood park developed by Key Pen Parks. For more information visit www.keypeninsualparks.com or contact Key Peninsula Metro Park District 884-9240.