Major park growth put in voters’ hands

"Community Park will grow by 30 acres and youth athletics will have several more fields to play on if voters approve a bond issue submitted by the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District.After swearing in new commissioner Tara Barlean and the re-elected Paul Arand, the commissioners Wednesday night unanimously approved the idea of going to the voters to pay for major park expansion and improvements.The exact amount being sought won’t be known until bond attorneys calculate the figures, but it will be approximately $1,450,000, according to Jerry Cole, parks director. A meeting has been set for Jan. 12 to establish the final figure.The big news Wednesday was the decision to buy a second parcel of land. It had already been decided to buy 20 acres as part of a 40-acre parcel purchased jointly with Island County. Parks borrowed $167,500 for that 20 acres, but hopes to make the payments with a voter-approved bond issue.The second parcel being sought is 30 acres, presently owned by a trust. It would connect the park to Langley Road, with an outlet adjacent to the Waterman Storage property. “There’s been a lot of discussion on the 30 acres since it was brought up by citizens in October,” said Cole.That 30 acres, presently owned by a trust, is expected to cost around $336,000. But no purchase agreement has been reached, according to Cole. “We’re pursuing that right now,” he said Thursday.An audience of youth athletic supporters from soccer and Little League, as well as public trail enthusiasts, encouraged the commissioners to try for the extra 30 acres, according to Cole. “We know we’re going to grow in the future,” he said. “We’re maxed out.” About 10 forested acres will remain that way, and the park’s trail system will triple in length to about three miles.Besides the park expansion proposal, the package to be sent to voters will include about $900,000 to pay for infrastructure improvements on the new land, such as clearing and grading, and providing water, parking and restrooms.The election will be held Feb. 29, the same date as the school district’s levy and the state presidential primary. If voters approve, property owners will pay about 7 cents per thousand in additional taxes over the next 20 years to pay off the $1.45 million in bonds."

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