Bainbridge parks board reviews feasibility study for kiddie steam train at Sakai Park

Bainbridge parks board reviews feasibility study for kiddie steam train at Sakai Park

A proposed steam train attraction at Sakai Park was once again the topic of much discussion at a recent park board meeting.

After last presenting the proposal to the board, Terry Lande, executive director of the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park &Recreation District, was asked to return with a feasibility study detailing how much the miniature steam train would cost to install, where it would go and how much it would cost to operate the train.

Presenting the study to the board, Lande noted the fact that the steam train would not only be a destination for youngsters to ride the rails, but also for adults to get some exercise as well. Consideration is now also being made to include a running path around the perimeter of the track to allow for a wider use of the area.

According to the feasibility study, the train tracks would be laid in a figure eight pattern winding through the old orchard and the alder grove toward the southern property line at Sakai.

“We want to maintain that orchard, if we can at all, into the future,” Lande said.

“The orchard is a very cool part of the property, so the train would go around that part,” he added.

As for the alder grove, while often considered to be a “weed tree,” Lande said the alders would also add to the aesthetic of the train ride.

“What that would give it is a nice feel for going through the countryside.”

The train station would be situated parallel to the nearby road and a storage container, dressed up to look like a tunnel (to house the trains when not in use) will be situated at the eastern end of the tracks.

According to the feasibility study, the financial burden to the district in locating the train at Sakai settled at an estimated $8,000. The cost is expected to cover electrical, site prep, track installation and a storage shed.

The study also identified a total of $48,650 of additional costs which are outlined as to be “paid by grant or other.”

The study once again stirred some voices of dissent as well as those in favor of the project.

Edith Hartmann said that even though the park district will be receiving the train and the tracks for free, not all things are as they seem.

“We once got free kittens,” Hartmann said.

“They came with fleas and worms and they had to be treated by a veterinarian. So, free projects aren’t always free,” she added.

Hartmann’s comment drew an audible “Wow,” from another attendee, Cindy McCall, who spoke in favor of the project.

“We want a place where all ages can come together and enjoy the park. We want a fun place for people to get together,” McCall said.

“Something like this could be a nice little draw to help bring some revenue to help develop this land into something we’d like,” she said.

“I’ll gladly donate time to help with a project like this, especially if I get to drive the train,” McCall added.

Park Commissioners Lee Cross and Tom Swolgaard said the train proposal looked promising. Getting the train in place would allow the undeveloped parkland to be used before more permanent amenities are built at Sakai Park in the years ahead.

“One of the things I think is significant about this project is that it would get people onto the property to use it now, as opposed to having to wait until some time in the future, which is what is likely to happen with most of the other things the committees came up with,” Cross said.

“The public is paying for this now and the only use they’re getting out of it is to be able to go down and walk around a little bit, and it’s not all that easy to walk around,” Cross said. “I’ve been down there and done it and it’s uneven and it’s not a real asset to the community. This could make it an asset.”

In addressing Hartmann’s concerns that the board was moving too quickly on the project, Swolgaard said, “We’re just exploring it because it’s been offered to us for free.”

“Nothing is free,” Hartmann interrupted.

“Well, that’s why we said, ‘Let’s have a feasibility study,’” Swolgaard replied.

The next park board meeting on Thursday, June 1 will include a presentation on possible design options for a Sakai site plan.

Lande said there would also be an agenda item that could see board members voting on whether or not to locate the steam train at the property, following the site plan presentation.

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