City mulling transfer of 22 properties to park district

The city, as many have said, is not in the park business.

With that in mind, a city Real Property Review Committee has recommended 22 open space and recreational properties, valued at $5.7 million, to be transferred to the Bainbridge Metropolitan Park and Recreation District. (See an interactive map of properties at the bottom of this page).

Another eight properties were recommended to be surplused and sold.

The potential parkland properties range wildly in size and use, from slivers of tideland to more expansive parcels, such as 31.8-acre Nute’s Pond and the 5.1-acre Williams property, valued at $1.7 million.

Park frequenters aren’t likely to notice wholesale change at the properties if the transfers go through. All were designated as passive-use open space by the city.

Park district Executive Director Terry Lande said the district would likely encourage activities such as hiking and biking on many of the properties, but “they’re not going to be turned into ballfields.”

Before they are handed over, the 22 properties will undergo a lengthy review process and be approved by the City Council and park district board.

Meanwhile, five properties could be transfered immediately.

Included are two “tot lots” – one on Madison Avenue and one on Aaron Avenue – that are already operated by the park district. On Port Madison Bay, the diminutive T’Chookwap Park could be transferred, along with two parcels on Spargur Loop, which park district staff thought had already changed hands.

“We found out through this process that we didn’t actually own them,” Lande said.

Three high-profile transfer candidates were pointedly left off the list.

Pritchard Park, Strawberry Plant Park and Waterfront Park have all been suggested for transfer but will have to be negotiated individually between the city and park district, and may require joint-operating agreements.

“Each of these are such unique properties, and are complex enough that the city’s involvement will probably go on for some time,” City Manager Mark Dombroski said.

Of the 22 properties on the proposed list for future transfer, only a handful would create stand-alone parks.

Nute’s Pond, a wooded property off Toe Jam Hill Road, surrounds an 11-acre pond. Lande said the property, perhaps with a walking trail, could provide an excellent passive park in an area of the island shy in parkland.

Nute’s Pond has been the center of two property disputes.

“It’s probably something we’ll address right off the bat if it’s transferred,” Lande said.

The 5.21-acre Williams Property, purchased by the city for $1.7 million following belabored negotiations in 2007, would provide the public low-bank waterfront access on Manzanita. An on-site caretaker tends the parcel.

South of Blakely Harbor Park, the 7.37-acre Yama property is a historic site of mill workers’ homes and could provide a trail corridor.

The Lumpkin Property, which encompasses 6 acres at the head of Eagle Harbor, was set aside by the city for passive use and wildlife habitat. Parade Grounds Park, in the midst of the Fort Ward neighborhood, is a popular property already maintained by the park district.

Many of the parcels recommended for transfer would expand existing park district parks.

Three “Meigs Farm” properties (Lovell, Lowery and Salter) would expand Meigs Park by 30 acres to the south. The park district’s holdings at Gazzam Lake would be expanded with the addition of the 3.32-acre Blossom property to the east. A cluster of small parcels around the Schel-Chelb Estuary would also be transferred, providing a trail link from Gazzam to the Lynwood Center waterfront.

Excluding Pritchard, Strawberry Plant and Waterfront parks, the land transfers aren’t expected to greatly impact the park district’s operating costs. Park district staff already maintain a number of the properties, most of which are largely undeveloped.

Several points still need to be hammered out between the agencies.

Park board members have been especially concerned over whether the district would be charged stormwater fees on the transferred properties.

See an interactive map of proposed properties for transfer below. Click on the markers for property details or click the blue link to view the map in a new window. Yellow markers denote properties that may be transferred immediately.

View Proposed City-to-Park District Transfers in a larger map

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