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Passion runs high in effort to keep Nolte open to public

Joe Bicondoa freely admits he’s passionate about Nolte State Park, where he runs the wide, groomed trails and his Labrador retriever splashes into the cool water of Deep Lake.

So it naturally follows that the Buckley resident was upset when he learned a couple of months ago that the state plans on “mothballing” the popular park due to budget constraints. The Parks Department has announced plans to close the park just a few miles northeast of Enumclaw until the economy turns around.

With an unabashed love for Nolte and time on his hands, Bicondoa decided that perhaps one man can make a difference. Thus, Friends of Nolte State Park was born.

“I look at the big picture,” Bicondoa said. “The economy is taking a tumble, so people can’t afford to go to the fitness center or they can’t afford a vacation.” Places like Nolte State Park offer a viable alternative, he said.

“This place has always been a refuge,” he added. “The park is a symbol of hope for the community.”

Bicondoa’s goal is to form an active support group that will volunteer to keep Nolte State Park looking good, tackling chores like mowing the lawns and picking up trash. That, combined with the fact that a park ranger will continue living on the grounds, would give the park the appearance of being fully operational and send a message to potential vandals, he said.

One thing a booster group cannot do, Bicondoa said, is get the restrooms open. Anyone visiting the park will need to know there are no facilities.

His immediate goal is to get the state to officially recognize Friends of Nolte State Park, Bicondoa said. Toward that end, he has met more than once with local park rangers, had conversations with local legislators and wandered the community one day last week, putting up fliers promoting his cause.

Anyone interested in learning more about the park’s status or joining Bicondoa’s cause is encouraged to call 253-394-6309 or e-mail friendsofnoltestatepark@q.com.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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