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State parks transferred to Bainbridge Park District

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission approved by a 6-1 vote Friday the transfer of Fay Bainbridge and Fort Ward state parks to the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District.

The transfers come at a time when the state is looking to drastically reduce costs and add revenue because additional cuts are expected to be made next year from the State Parks budget. The transfers would result in a potential saving of $147,000, according to a State Parks release.

Park District Executive Director Terry Lande attended the meeting Friday in Olympia and said commissioners were pleased that they could transfer the two Bainbridge parks rather than close them down as is expected for as many as 40 existing parks in the state system.

"We'll start talking with the regional directors soon, and we expect some capital improvement funds, vehicles and equipment will be included in the transfers."

Lande said. "We'll start negotiating with them and probably do a walk through next week, kicking the tires and seeing what's operable so we don't have to go out and buy things."

Lande said the district will work out an interlocal agreement so it could start maintaining the parks in January, with paperwork expected to delay the transfers until next spring or early summer.

Fay Bainbridge currently is the home of a state employee who works both parks. Lande said that employee will be replaced by a district staff employee who will also live in the dwelling and be responsible for Fay Bainbridge, which receives revenue through camping fees. He said there's also a building adjacent to the house that will be used as a satellite maintenance center for the north end of the island.

The employee, who currently runs the volunteer program for all of the island's parks, will provide security and collect camping fees at Fay Bainbridge.

Lande said Fort Ward has been neglected but it can be improved quickly because of the district's volunteer program. He said there's a possibility that the park will remain open more often if the district decides to make it a "camp post," which allows a volunteer to live on the property in a trailer or motor home.

Lande expects the transfers to be seamless because the district and the state have been discussing them since early 2009, when the state first began discussing closures. He said the district is prepared to handle the additional costs without impacting its budgets going forward.

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