City planners present parks plan
After two years of sifting through Blaine’s open space and recreational inventory, the parks board and the planning department have come up with a map intended to bring for the city’s parks up to meet a growing community need. “This is just the beginning,” said mayor Dieter Schugt.
The plan, unveiled at the August 23 city council meeting, is intended to be a “guide the acquisition planning and development of parks and recreation in the city of Blaine,” something the city hasn’t had for almost a decade. While growth has been moving ahead, city planner Terry Galvin said, the city has not been keeping pace with places for the growing population to get out and play. The plan is an inventory of what the city has, and recommendations for what it needs.
“This document is very specific,” Galvin said. “It consists of identifications of site specific issues and recommendations.”
Of the existing community parks, the plan acknowledges that only Marine Park is in reasonable condition – both Skallman and Lincoln parks are underused because they have poor access, decrepit facilities, unsafe equipment and clogged trails. A six-year spending plan submitted with the document proposes spending $50,000 on Lincoln Park in 2009 and puts off $11,000 estimated to fix up Skallman Park. Starting in 2006 the plan recommends $800,000 in improvements for Blaine Marine Park and proposes expanding the park to include the wetlands south of Marine Drive between the parking lot and the railroad. Two new community parks are being proposed, one at the mouth of Dakota Creek and one preserving a large wetland and wildlife area in east Blaine.
The plan found the city’s smaller neighborhood parks lacking as well. While Salishan Park was found to be in adequate condition, $30,000 in improvements were suggested for Salishan, Montfort and Kilmer parks between 2006 and 2008, including trail development and new play equipment. To better serve Blaine neighborhoods, the plan recommends seven new smaller parks and play areas be developed and a similar number of shoreline access and viewing areas.
Galvin proposes using the impact fees the city has been collecting to start acquiring property for more parks. “We’ve been collecting them and not using them,” he said, adding the fund balance was more than $100,000. “With this plan we’re now in a position to use these funds. They are supposed to be used for capital improvements, expansion and property acquisition.” city manager, Gary Tomsic said real estate excise funds were also available.
Recreational facilities such as the library and community center are also addressed in the plan, which recommends continuing to support the ones the city has and adding a few new ones. Projects already underway, such as the boardwalk and the skatepark are on the list, as well as a Maritime History Center, a new boardwalk near the marina and a community swimming pool.
Trail development is given a high priority in the plan, which sets out a network of trails around Drayton Harbor connecting parks and recreation facilities. The funding guide proposes to spend $150,000 over the next six years to build and improve trails.
Besides site specific recommendations the plan also has administrative recommendations, a primary one being that the city start taking parks seriously. “One of the issues the parks board very much wanted included was accountability,” Galvin said. “If we want parks, if we want open space, the city needs to pay for them.” The parks board also committed itself to more community outreach to get residents using the parks more, and involved in their development.
Community involvement will be critical to how the plan is implemented, Galvin said. At the first chance for the public to comment on the plan August 23 only Sandro Westermayer spoke. Westermayer, who lives adjacent to Montfort park, said he liked the park undeveloped and underused. “Trails in a residential area in my mind is a bad idea,” he said. “I don’t think anybody wants trail traffic in front of their house. It’s for the residents in that development and it was never intended as a public trail.” The Montfort family donated the park to the city in 1919, providing waterfront access from Dodd Street via a small footpath.
“This plan calls for extensive neighborhood planning before anything is done,” Galvin said. He encouraged residents to drop by the planning office on H Street adjacent to city hall and pick up a copy of the plan. On September 27 city council will hold a public hearing to consider public response to the proposals in the plan prior to discussing its adoption. Once the plan is approved specific projects will be preceded by more public meetings and council consideration.