Interest groups collide at second Parks Summit

Turnout at Bonney Lake’s Parks Summit II Thursday night was not quite what organizers had hoped as the city worted to put together a parks package that will satisfy enough voters to approve a metropolitan parks district.

Approximately 20 people attended the summit, well off the pace of the 70 or so residents that attended the city’s first summit in May, with attendees often disagreeing on the most important priorities for the city’s parks.

The city offered a scaled-back version of projects, offered by the mayor, that cut the final price by one-third, but eliminated a sports complex and other projects on the city’s Reed property, due to concerns about it being outside city limits and the potential traffic mitigation to the two small roads leading to it.

But according to Facilities and Special Projects Manager Gary Leaf, the cuts to the sports complex mean it less likely voters concerned with more playfields will support a final package they now see as weighted too heavily toward trails, for example.

“The challenge is going to be coming up with a package that can satisfy all the interest groups within a budget the public can support,” Leaf said.

Because of the issues surrounding the Reed Property, and a seeming lack of support from the city council to use that land, Mayor Neil Johnson’s revamped proposal includes money to convert some of the city’s current fields to turf and expand other fields, such as Ballfield Four, located behind the overflow parking lot across from Allan Yorke Park, and “multipurpose grass field” at the Moriarty Property, a city-owned parcel adjacent to the park.

Converting old fields to turf can save the city more than $300,000 versus installing new fields.

However, after a great response at Bonney Lake Days to a potential ropes course and playground at the former WSU forest, one has been added to the list.

The total project sheet proposed by the administration is $10.6 million, including at least three million for trails and $2.5 million for a multi-purpose pavilion, like the one at Pioneer Park in Puyallup.

But because several field projects came off the list and the trails projects remained, supporters of the fields indicated they were less likely to support a metropolitan parks district based on the current list of projects.

“The devil’s in the details,” Leaf said.

Other concerns raised by residents include the running of a new parks district, which is planned at this point to be run by members of the city council, instead of electing a second board for the running of the parks district.

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said the problem with creating a new board is the “tremendous overhead” that comes with it and the difficulty in communicating with the council and other elected officials. Swatman said he was worried people will think the city council can use the park district’s taxing authority to use the money for something else, despite laws against it.

Swatman said he was worried about moving forward with the district, despite his support for it, because he believes without a clear project list, voters will not approve it.

“I don’t see a unified vision,” he said.

A metropolitan parks district would require a simple majority to be created. The district would then have a taxing authority to fund park projects.

The estimated annual cost to taxpayers of the current $10.6 million list of projects is estimated to be $100 per year to the average home in Bonney Lake.

Leaf said the city will go forward with planning for now, with the goal of getting the measure on the ballot in April because such a district would provide a way for the city to begin work on its list of parks needs, currently estimated at about $30 Million in projects.

“We’re not going to give up on it,” Leaf said, adding “but the specifics may change.”