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Parks bond issue pitched

"More trails, more forests, more ballfields -- the prospects of these are dear to the heart of a parks director, and were sufficient to drag Jerry Cole away from his flu bed to pitch the parks bond issue at a meeting called by the League of Women Voters.Absentee voters have already received their ballots, while others will go to the polls on Feb. 29 to vote on the proposal by the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District.If approved by voters, proceeds from the $1,450,000 bond sale would be used to:* Pay off roughly $160,000 the district owes for its half of a 40-acre parcel of land purchased in conjunction with Island County last fall.* Purchase an additional 30 acres to the east, providing room for ballfields and a Community Park access onto Langley Road.* Build new sports fields.* Build new trails.* Provide additional open space, including acres of towering second growth evergreens.The bonds would be paid off over 20 years, costing property owners an estimated 7 cents per thousand valuation, or about $10 per year for the owner of a $150,000 home.It's a dollar a month for 240 months, is how Cole summarized the cost to the average property owner.An interested audience of about 20 citizens attended the League's Issues Night on Wednesday.As to why the bond proposal came at this time, Cole noted the growing demand for sports fields and the availability now of property that may not be available in the future.Little League has doubled in size in six years, and now serves 500 children in the springtime. And youth soccer has some 900 youth participants throughout the year.At present, there are only three ballfields available at Community Park, the 43-acre development on Maxwelton Road next to the high school. And high school and adult leagues try to share the limited facilities with youth leagues. An estimated 100,000 visits are made to the park each year.Cole described the desired 30-acres as already clearcut and flat, which will keep the costs of creating additional sports fields reasonable. This is already cleared, he said. Little League and youth soccer supporters asked the district to purchase the 30-acre parcel.Original plans were to use parks' half of the 40 acres purchased last fall for ballfields, but its terrain is rough. Cole estimated it would cost $350,000 to $400,0000 to clear that land. The county purchased its portion as part of a future trail system. Cole said the parks district's half, if the bond passes, will also provide trail space and be kept for future growth. The ballfields would then go on the additional 30 acres, which fronts Langley Road near the Waterman storage property.Responding to a question, Cole emphasized that the district isn't depending on the bond sale to pay off its part of the 40-acres purchased with the county. A loan was taken out for that, and present revenues will allow its payback over seven years.In Cole's mind, the 30-acre option simply came around at the right time, and will meet demand for recreation for years to come. This could wrap everything up real neat, he said. It's incredible. We probably won't get another chance like it."

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