Letters to the Editor

BI is going slow on acquisition issue | Letters | March 27

A letter (“State parks decision requires public input,” March 20) raised questions about the possible transfer of Fay Bainbridge and Fort Ward state parks to the Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District (BIMPRD).

The writer was concerned that the district’s board was moving “too quickly to bail out the state” and take over these parks, and that acquisition of these parks by the district would forestall funding for trails and other park improvements on the Island.

Fort Ward and Fay Bainbridge are valuable parks. Both provide waterfront access to the public on an island where public waterfront is limited.

Fay Bainbridge has spectacular views of Puget Sound and the only overnight camping on the island. Fort Ward is an historical site, as well as a scenic destination for a new trail running from Blakely Harbor Park. If possible, we want to keep these parks open for the public to enjoy.

Despite the obvious advantages, the district is proceeding carefully in deciding whether and how to take on these parks.

Since January, BI parks commissioners and staff have been talking with our state legislators and with State Parks representatives about the future of both these parks, including a possible transfer.

We are asking a lot of questions about, among other things, maintenance costs for both parks, capital improvements needed in each park, the proposed wastewater treatment system at Fay Bainbridge, and specific problems related to the buildings at both parks. We don’t have answers to all our questions, and until we do, we would not negotiate a transfer of the two parks to BIMPRD.

The district board is very grateful for taxpayer support of island parks, and, in particular, appreciates taxpayers’ endorsement of the lid-lift in the last election. If BIMPRD were to take ownership of Fort Ward and Fay Bainbridge, funding for acquisition and development of new park land, including trail easements, would not be greatly affected.

Some lid-lift funds might go for capital improvements on the two parks, but most of the funds would be directed towards acquisition of new park land and trails and development of existing BI parks and open space.

The state is facing a budget deficit approaching $9 billion through 2011. As with every other department in state government, State Parks must cut costs. To that end, they have announced plans to mothball 33 state parks, in addition to permanently closing 13 others, including Fort Ward and Fay Bainbridge.

At the board’s regular meeting on March 26, we expected to discuss the possible transfer of Fay Bainbridge and Fort Ward and receive an update from the staff on the status of our request for information from the State Parks and Recreation Commission.

A notice and agenda for this meeting was posted on the district’s website. I encourage anyone who would like to comment either for or against this transfer to attend future board meetings at district headquarters.

Lee Cross, vice chair

Board of Commissioners

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