Kitsap County Commissioners approve parks purchase - Two major "heritage parks" would be acquired with $4 million in bonds.
April 22, 2003
Kitsap County commissioners Monday agreed to purchase 1,200 acres
of forestland southeast of Bremerton National Airport to create a
"heritage park" for future generations.
Supporters praised the commissioners for wisely taking advantage of what could be the chance of a lifetime. Opponents complained that the county owns enough undeveloped land already.
In a series of actions, including a budget amendment, the commissioners approved a $4 million bond issue for the two parks. About half would complete the purchase of the 1,200 acres owned by McCormick Land Co.
The other half would be used to buy land in North Kitsap.
The bonds would be repaid from the county's Conservation Futures Fund, which derives money from an annual property tax of 6.25 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.
Linda Niebanck of McCormick Land Co. said it has been the long-term vision of the McCormick family to preserve land for public parks.
"We started planning this a long time ago," she said.
The 1,200 acres, adjacent to Lake Flora Road south of Sunnyslope, contains the headwaters of Coulter and Rocky creeks. It includes an extensive beaver colony along with developed trails.
Cris Gears, the county's parks director, said the negotiated price is 30 percent below appraised value.
Gary Cunningham of The Great Peninsula Conservancy said time is running out to acquire such big properties.
He said the Gig Harbor community, which recently acquired 77 acres for $2 million in Conservation Futures money, regrets that it didn't act sooner.
"The people of Gig Harbor are thrilled with the park," he said, "but it has cost them dearly."
Vivian Henderson of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners said she has heard from a lot of people who are not happy with the deal.
Most have had no chance to discuss the acquisition, she said. Some are worried about taking land off the tax rolls, while others wonder how the county will maintain the land.
"We're not made out of money," said Tim Matthes of South Kitsap. "I don't know why we're doing this in such a hurry."
Scott Henden of Kingston said what the county really needs is not more land but more developed parks.
Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen said the Conservation Futures Fund can be spent only on land acquisitions. The county does its best in developing and maintaining its existing parks, given the tight budget.
Year after year, Endresen said, counties have asked the Legislature for authority to spend some of the Conservation Futures Fund for maintenance, but the bills have never passed.
Commissioner Patty Lent said "stewardship committees" are being formed where volunteers can do some of the maintenance.
According to Commissioner Jan Angel, three factors make the purchase a good deal right now. The price of the South Kitsap property is low, interest rates are low, and the county can swing the bond issue.
"This has been a vision for a long time," she added.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]