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City of Bainbridge, park district get into kerfuffle over new park name
Bainbridge Island's new gateway park will be called "The Waypoint."
Or maybe not.
The board of commissioners for the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District met last week to choose a name for the new park, which will be developed just up the hill from the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal on a patch of public land that once housed a Unocal gas station. But park officials were told at the start of their meeting that they weren't the ones who should be making the decision.
Mayor Debbi Lester told the parks board that since the park property is jointly owned by the city of Bainbridge Island and Kitsap Transit, the city council should make the final decision on the name for the park.
Lester called it "technical glitch" that the parks district had been asked to pick the name.
"I'm trying to find a graceful way for us to work out a little technical issue that we haven't resolved," Lester told the parks board.
Lester recalled that the council had passed a resolution in support of the park project, and that an interlocal agreement is in the works between the city and the parks district — which would make the parks district responsible for maintaining and managing the new gateway park — but noted the city has not specifically given the parks district the authority to name the new park.
"There seems to be a naming process going on, which is very exciting that we're getting to that point," said Lester, who also repeatedly praised the collaboration between the city, parks district and others on the project.
"But council hasn't given that particular agreement in writing, either in our interlocal agreement or in the resolution. I'm here now to help us figure out how to gracefully weave this in," she said.
"I just don't want to have council members be alarmed or kind of have push-back," Lester said.
The Bainbridge parks district has been mulling a moniker for the new park since it was approached by the Citizen's Park Task Force to come up with a name, since the park district has an established process for naming facilities, and the city doesn't.
The park district then set up a naming committee, and at the group's last meeting on June 14, a list of potential park names was whittled to three finalists: Winslow Waypoint, Bainbridge Landing and Gateway Corner.
A fourth name, Community Cornerstone, was added later, and the naming committee also shortened the suggestion of Winslow Waypoint to simply The Waypoint. A waypoint is a nautical term, and one that committee members would well fit a new park that may include a compass rose design in the walkway through the park and way-finding information on local attractions to visitors passing through the gateway property.
Lester's concerns over the parks board's move to name the property, however, prompted park officials to wonder if they should even bother to select a preferred name.
"It was fairly clear to me that we were asked to name the park because we had a process for naming things," said Park Commissioner Kirk Robinson. "The city did not have a process, so therefore it was delegated to us."
"My feeling is, if the city is going to insist on having the final say on it, I would recommend that this group take their recommendation to the city council and let them make that decision," Robinson said of the naming committee.
Terry Lande, executive director of the parks district, said park supporters were anxious to have a name nailed down so fundraising efforts could get started soon.
"To say that they are chomping at the bit to fundraise would be an understatement. But they also don't want to start until they have a name," Lande said. "And so it's real critical to get something going forward."
Lande said there could be trouble if the park district picked a name and the council later decided it wanted to call the park something else.
"I'm not sure you should make a suggestion," Lande said.
"I think you are putting a lot of things at risk," he said, adding that council members may ask, "Why is it we don't get to have a choice of names?"
"I think it puts a whole bunch of things in a precarious position," Lande said. "I think there's a minefield out there if you do that."
Park Commissioner Tom Swolgaard asked his fellow commissioners to table the naming of the park, but several others on the board said the park district should tell the city its preferred name for the park and let the council make the call.
Robinson, however, said their suggestion should stick.
"My perspective is, in the long run, this will be looked at as a park district park or site. We will be managing and operating it," Robinson said.
"I think it would make more sense if we made a decision and that's what flew," he said.
"It just gets into the continued, sort of tit-for-tat meddling that goes on, quite frankly, between both agencies at times," Robinson added.
"If we are going to move forward on this, let's move forward in what I would say is a positive direction," he said. "If it's going to be a city-named park, it's going to be a city park. If it's going to be a park district-named park, it's going to be a park name."
Robinson pointed out that the park district had gone through a public process to come up with a name for the park, and if the board made a decision, the citizen's group could move forward with its work.
"It gives the community work group a chance to get going. And I would hope that Debbi could accept that, Madame Mayor," Robinson told Lester.
Park Commissioner Ken DeWitt, however, said he was OK with simply making a suggestion for the name of the new park.
"I'm very comfortable looking at names and making a recommendation to the city council based upon the naming process that we had and the public process that we've gone through," DeWitt said.
"We don't want to step on people's toes," he said. "This isn't something to step on people's toes about."
Lester said she expected her colleagues on the city council to approve the suggestion that would come from the parks district once they were asked.
"I'm fairly sure that the council will certainly accept that and move on," she said.
"To me, it's a courtesy more than anything," Lester added.
The motion to table the naming of the park was defeated on a 3-2 vote.
Commissioners then voted 5-0 to choose "The Waypoint" as their preferred suggestion.
A final vote on the name will come this week. The city council will review the suggested name at its meeting Wednesday.
DeWitt later said the council's concern over the park district's naming process may be in response to criticism that park commissioners have leveled at the city as it rewrites its rules covering shoreline properties.
Park district officials have repeatedly raised concerns that the city's update to its Shoreline Master Program will hurt the district's ability to maintain public access to the beach at its park properties.
DeWitt told his fellow board members that he had raised those concerns yet again during a public meeting held by the city council the previous evening.
"I beat them up a little bit last night," DeWitt said.