Before the idea of a metropolitan park district ever surfaced, commissioners with the current KP Parks and Recreation District had been working on a big dream: the acquisition of a 360-acre property that would become a regional park with unlimited possibilities. Think Christmas lights display, big parties including the KP Community Fair, Renaissance Faire and Old Timers’ Day—all going on at the same time— car shows and Civil War re-enactments.
It’s a big dream for a small park district, but local residents have been in discussions for about two years with several agencies and elected representatives to see how to make it happen. The idea came about after KPPRD created an acquisition committee, chaired by Ed Taylor, to look into opportunities. The 360-acre Department of Natural Resources property looked interesting. “We’ve identified over half a dozen possible properties in the north end and explored them; this one seemed to have the most potential and be most fruitful for the citizens of the Key Peninsula,” he said.
The area, bordering Horseshoe Golf Course on one side and the power line on another, has been used by DNR for logging as part of a trust land program whose revenues are used for financing public education.
“Part of the committee’s job will be to make recommendations about potential funding. If we generate enough fees, it oesn’t cost the park district any money,” Taylor said.
But first, an acquisition must be made. Through the Trust Fund Transfer program, DNR can exchange, sell or transfer land that is not efficient to operate or does not generate solid revenues through timber sales and other methods. A park district could look for ways to make such an exchange or purchase.
Pierce County Councilman Terry Lee, also involved in the discussions, said the county may consider trading land to make up for part of the value. Legislative funding would also be required. Lee said the property is No. 4 on the South Sound “land swap” list, and DNR was expected to meet in June to prioritize the statewide list. Should the KP land remain on the list, if the 2005 Legislature puts funding into prioritized projects, an acquisition can potentially be made in 2006.
“It would be a great regional park. There has been great interest from the Renaissance Faire because their current location is unpredictable, and the Key Peninsula Fair that is bursting at the`seams could expand,” Lee said.
Rep. Pat Lantz said the creation of a metropolitan park district with its funding will be a great help for such a transaction because it would be very difficult to operate the park entirely with volunteers. “I love the Key Peninsula with its enthusiasm but you need something to fall back on,” she said. “The Metropolitan Park District may be just what the doctor ordered.” State grants could also be available for recreation and habitat projects, she said.
As for legislative funding, the uncertainty from year to year is like any other budget line item.
“It all depends who’s in charge. Every year we have projects like this we try to get help with, but there is a lot of uncertainty with the upcoming elections and the new budget. Seniority does help,” said Sen. Bob Oke, who helped with a similar property in South Kitsap —it took “making a lot of deals to keep it a park.” But the 200-acre park on Jackson and Lund hasn’t seen many improvements lately, Oke added, because all the levies failed except the initial one during the purchase, and there is limited local revenue.
Still, this is a dream Taylor and the others said is worth pursuing.