For sale? Probably not

Quiet T’Chookwap Park on Spargur Loop overlooks Port Madison Bay. - Julie Busch photo
Quiet T’Chookwap Park on Spargur Loop overlooks Port Madison Bay.
— image credit: Julie Busch photo

The city is poised to hand off the tiny T’Chookwap parcel

to the park district.

The tug-of-war over a little park on Port Madison was given a solid yank in the direction of public access this week.

The City Council on Wednesday directed staff to draft a resolution for the transfer of T’Chookwap Park to the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District. The council expects to vote on the transfer at its May 10 meeting.

“Back in the day, the intent was to provide access to the waterfront with this park – that’s a fact,” said Councilman Bill Knobloch, citing debates on the half-acre park on Spargur Loop Road when the city purchased it in 1992.

While the city may have intended T’Chookwap as a public access to views of the bay, some neighbors say the park has been neglected by the city and is seldom used by the island’s residents.

The city Open Space Commission adopted this logic in its pitch to sell the park and buy other open areas elsewhere.

The commission also argued that the nearby Spargur Park, a 6-acre parcel established around the corner last year, duplicates the smaller park’s purpose – and comes with additional attractions including dock and beach access.

The Seattle Yacht Club, which owns a neighboring outstation, has offered to buy T’Chookwap as part of a redevelopment and expansion project. The club would then use the park as a buffer between the outstation and nearby residences.

But Councilman Jim Llewellyn, who proposed the city transfer T’Chookwap to the park district late last month, argued that there are “no compelling reasons to sell the park.”

The club’s expansion, which Llewellyn expects will attract more boaters to the bay, increases T’Chookwap’s value as a public park.

“A lot more boats are going to obstruct views at Spargur Park,” he said. “When the (club’s) expansion is done, you won’t be able to see the mouth of the harbor from Spargur like you can from T’Chookwap.”

Craig Jones, an attorney representing a Spargur Loop family favoring the park’s sale, argued that some members of the council were under the false premise that T’Chookwap had been donated to the city and that it must remain in public use.

Llewellyn denied that councilors “labored under the idea (T’Chookwap) was donated,” while city attorney Paul McMurray stated that the property’s sale was negotiated with language alluding to its use as a “passive park.”

Priscilla Lavry, who sold the park to the city 14 years ago, agreed that she was given assurances that the park would remain available for public use.

“I trusted the city to do what they said they’d do,” she told the council. “I had another buyer, but I was told my property would be a passive park” if it was sold to the city.

The city purchased the park for $257,000, with a contribution of $137,000 from the Seattle Yacht Club.

Llewellyn believes T’Chookwap will receive better stewardship from the park district if its transfer is approved.

“T’Chookwap could have been developed more by the city,” he said. “But the park district is really the entity that owns, develops and maintains parks. The city doesn’t have that reputation and we have enough challenges with Waterfront Park.”

Park officials have hinted they’d accept the park, but would likely not make substantial improvements to it until other high priority projects are completed.

Some councilors expressed reservations with T’Chookwap’s transfer to the park district.

Councilman Kjell Stoknes said he “struggled with (T’Chookwap) for months” before urging the council to consider consulting with the city’s Road Ends Committee for direction.

Councilwoman Debbie Vancil said a criteria for selling, transferring or trading city park land should be established before other similar proposals are initiated. But with at least four councilors supporting a vote on the park’s transfer, Llewellyn is confident residents will soon see T’Chookwap on the park district’s roster where “no one will propose selling it again.”

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