BI parks to fix rather than replace pool

The parks district has decided to fix up the Ray Williamson Pool at the Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center rather than build a new one.

At its latest meeting, the BI Metro Parks & Recreation District decided to spend an estimated $2.8 million for repairs, rather than ask voters to spend up to $56 million for a new pool.

Commissioner Ken DeWitt said that a 33-meter pool would add over $900 a year to a homeowner’s property taxes.

Commissioner Dawn Janow said the $868,000 subsidy for the Aquatic Center is much more than for any other facility, which would only increase with a larger pool.

It also was reported that usage is down from roughly 77,831 in 2016 to about 43,115 in 2022. Only 2 percent of BI residents use the pool. The national median average was one pool for 50,000 residents; BI has two pools for 25,000 residents.

Parks has been looking at a new pool since 2017 when a study said it could not be effectively repaired. A new pool would have cost up to $15 million. Two years later ideas for a better pool ran as high as $42 million. Things were then delayed due to COVID.

Then a company said it could renovate the pool for $5 million to make it last up to 20 years longer.

Commissioner Jay Kinney advised pool user groups to get together and come up with a plan for a new pool.

Park expansion

Also at the meeting, there was a long discussion about expansion at Strawberry Hill Park.

One of the more-popular decisions was to put lights up on the new artificial turf field. Talk of doing that at Battle Point Park was heavily criticized.

During public comments, Scott Daniels of the Battle Point Alliance thanked the park district as did Frank Petrie of the Battle Point Astronomical Association. He also thanked the BI Football Club for finding an alternative for the lighted field and preserving the dark at Battle Point.

Park Services Division director Dan Hamlin said design input for Strawberry Hill Park has been gathered from user groups and the board. Staff has been working with consultant Asakura Robinson. The concept plan incorporates current park land, the possible McKeon easement on the north end and the Comcast property.

Natural Resources manager Lydia Roush said the proposal from the Dog Advisory Committee for the dog park includes expansion of the large and small dog areas and creation of two training bays.

Staff had a pre-application meeting with the city of BI regarding the 60 percent design of the artificial turf field. The footprint of the field was enlarged to meet accessibility standards.

Next steps will include the construction estimate, permitting and user group meetings. A meeting was held with the neighbors, and there was no major opposition. The conditional use permit will need to be amended to utilize lights for the field.

The skate park and bike park are being developed with input from user groups, and project agreements are in place with BI Parks & Trails Foundation for those two elements.

Senior planner Perry Barrett spoke to trail connections to Strawberry Hill Park, including the High School Road trail easement, the trail easement connection to Walden Lane and the Cherry Orchard Lane tax title strip that would cost a significant amount of money to purchase from the city. Negotiations regarding the McKeon easement for use as a skills area for the bike park are underway.

The sports fields conversation includes reorienting the upper field for improved access, indoor field space, an artificial turf field with accessible access, and improved concession and restroom area with user group storage. Community park space ideas include relocating the playground, an additional picnic shelter, maintaining open space and preserving trees.

Ideas to increase safety include a four-way stop, painted crosswalks, speed bumps and signage. Strawberry Hill Park has 135 parking spaces, and Asakura Robinson is anticipating that 200+ may be needed.

Next steps are to work on design for community park space and racquet sport courts from the public, neighbors and the board.