Opportunity abounds in Bainbridge parkland nominations

In the Commodore West neighborhood, hopes are being pinned on a single sliver of land.

The brush-strewn hillside lot at the end of Capstan Drive is the last piece of open space among the 46 homes in the development. The property is already transected by a well-worn trail, evidence that it’s already a popular connection between High School Road and the Commodore neighborhoods, to Sportsman Club Road.

Neighbors hope the parcel – which is for sale by a private developer – can be preserved as a public park and vital trail link.

“It’s an alternative route, especially for youngsters,” said Roberto Gurza, who owns an adjoining property. “It takes them off dangerous Sportsman, which is really busy.”

The Commodore West Homeowners Association is making its case; nominating the property to the Parkland Acquisition Committee, a citizen group advising the Bainbridge Metropolitan Park and Recreation District on properties to purchase using funds from a recent levy lid-lift.

But the parcel has plenty of competition. The PAC fielded about 70 nominations before its June 30 deadline for submissions, many with well-organized support.

PAC members have been pleased with the quality of nominations and the fervor behind them.

“We have some astounding applications,” PAC member Frank Stowell said. “It’s an incredibly competitive group.”

By now, letters of notification have been sent to most owners of nominated properties. Park district Senior Planner Perry Barrett said a few owners have already expressed interest in working with the PAC. Four have requested that their properties be withdrawn from consideration and one attended a Tuesday PAC meeting to say he was distraught when he received the notification letter. The owner told the committee that he had owned the property for 30 years and had no intention of moving.

“It was very strange to get the letter and it was very disturbing,” the owner said.

With nominations in, the PAC has begun lumping the candidate properties into categories based on the committee’s five priorities: creating new parks within Winslow, creating parks near city-designated commercial centers; blazing new trail connections; adding land to existing parks outside Winslow; providing shoreline access; and taking advantage of “unexpected opportunities.”

Of the nominations, about 30 percent fall into the trail easement and connection camp.

Many of those were nominated by John Grinter, chair of the city’s Non-motorized and Transportation Advisory Committee, who said the PAC has a chance to make a big difference with just a few small purchases.

“There’s a variety of opportunities out there for small local connections that only need one or two easements to connect existing parks and trails,” Grinter said. “There’s also a larger vision... we’re maybe a baker’s dozen of easements away from connecting, by trail, Port Madison and Lynwood Center.”

Blakely Harbor Park and Pritchard Park could also be linked with a few easements, Grinter said, and the non-motorized commission is eyeing a public trail corridor from High School road to New Brooklyn Road.

Another bevy of nominations would extend the western edge of Gazzam Lake Park, while potentially settling a litigious situation (see related story, page 1).

Other nominations are spread across the island. Only one nomination – for two parcels in Rolling Bay – falls within a commercial service center.

The PAC is in the process of divying up the nominations between its members for evaluation. Final recommendations will be made to the park board this fall.

The wealth of nominations has set the PAC up for some hard calls.

This year, roughly $850,000 in lid-lift money has been designated for parkland acquisition and development. But unspent money will roll over to the next year.

“Many of these (nominations) are very interesting and exciting,” PAC Chair Cyndy Holtz said. “But there are far more here than we have the resources to buy. It’s going to be a very challenging job.”

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