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Tiny park may get reprieve

T’Chookwap should not be sold, a council committee says.

As neighbors haggle over the future of a little park on Port Madison Bay, a City Council committee has cast its vote in favor of keeping the park.

“I think T’Chookwap Park is still a viable park that is enjoyed by enough people to keep in perpetuity,” said Councilman Jim Llewellyn, who chairs the Land Use Committee.

Llewellyn will present his committee’s recommendation at tonight’s council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. A motion to transfer the property to the park district will likely occur in two weeks, he said.

Some neighbors of the 1-acre T’Chookwap Park say the parcel has long been neglected by the city and is seldom used by residents. They and members of the city’s Open Space Commission are urging the city to sell the property and use the money for a grander park somewhere else.

The Seattle Yacht Club, which owns property bordering the park, plans to expand and has hinted it would buy the parcel.

Others, however, say T’Chookwap Park is a community asset and a buffer against encroaching development.

“It’s got a terrific view and, of course, the area’s getting quite a bit more development,” said Llewellyn. “It (preserves) access to the water.”

Councilman Bill Knobloch said discussions have revealed a divide over what to do with the park. In his mind, T’Chookwap should remain as it is.

“I said, ‘That’s enough,’” he said. “It’s public access. It’s for public use, as it was originally intended by its owner.”

The property was purchased from Priscilla Lavry in 1992 for $257,000, with a contribution of $137,000 from the Seattle Yacht Club. Lavry stipulated that the property should remain a park and has reminded the city of its intended use at numerous recent city meetings.

But members of the Open Space Commission believe Spargur Park, also on Port Madison Bay’s south shore, serves the same purpose as T’Chookwap, and does a better job of it.

“In my view, we now have the Spargur property next door, which has good access to the water and makes (T’Chookwap) less necessary,” said commission member Andy Maron.

T’Chookwap is cut off from direct water access by a steep bluff, making access to the beach dangerous.

But Llewellyn believes transferring the property to the park district could mean future improvements, such as a stairwell to the beach, a dock and parking areas off Sparger Loop.

After “languishing” for years, Maron is doubtful residents would see significant improvements in the near future.

“I think the property ought to be a park, but it’s not a park,” he said. “It’s been abandoned and ignored for 15 years.”

Terry Lande, director of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District, said he’d welcome the park’s transfer, but would likely put it on a long list of properties to improve and goals to achieve.

“If it was transferred to the park district, we’d treat it like a park and manage it like a park,” he said.

“As for developing it, we’d put it on a three-, five- or 10-year plan. It’d have to compete with a lot of other things going on.”

Lande echoed Maron’s observation that Spargur Park mimics many of T’Chookwap’s intended uses only a block away.

That may mean T’Chookwap would take a lower priority for development, he said.

“We’d keep it safe, clean and green,” he said. “Doing a dock and stairs isn’t cheap and it does seem to have a duplicate use.”

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