The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District passed on buying 10 acres of potential trail land.
The parks board turned down an offer to buy the parcel of wooded land for $110,000 at its Aug. 20 meeting. Owned by Patty Schiendelman, the property would have been added to the Trustland Trails already owned by the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District.
Board members conceded during the meeting last week that the price was fair and the land favorable, but said that at the time, their priorities kept them for buying it due in part to budget constraints.
Doug Coutts, parks director, said the district would not be able to write a check for that amount immediately.
Commissioner Bob Hezel Jr. questioned whether the $110,000 was available in the district’s current budget, a sentiment echoed by fellow Commissioner Mark Helpenstell.
“From my perspective, it’s a piece of property that, if the price is right and the situation is right, fits into expanding that [200 acres] slightly,” Helpenstell said. “But the net benefit to the property [parks and recreation is] dealing with currently is pretty limited. In theory, we may be able to add a little bit of a trail to a piece of it. My biggest concern right now is in financing.”
Helpenstell recommended that the district should focus upon its current properties such as maintenance of Lone, Deer and Goss lakes. Acquiring additional acreage was not at the top of the district’s to-do list at the time.
“On the budget we’re on, I don’t see it as a priority and I don’t see it as likely to get attraction,” he said.
Schiendelman, who attended the parks meeting Aug. 20, countered the board’s concerns. She said logging could be an option with one corner of the property growing plenty of lumber. The suggestion was verbally declined by some board members and Coutts, who said that the potential earnings from logging would be negligible in comparison to the cost of acquiring the property and extracting the lumber.
“I’m not saying that Patty’s property isn’t a nice property,” said Coutts. “I’m saying that based on the criteria that are here [for evaluating properties]—water access, there’s a little stream there, so there is not much. It’s not like we can get on to the ocean. Potential uses—well, it’s open space, hiking trails. There are not a lot of additional uses.”
Coutts added that, while the cost to maintain the property would be low, it would also not add to the district’s “core” as a community park and would not fill a gap in land because the district already owns 200 acres surrounding Schiendelman’s land.
Parks Commissioner Joel Gerlach agreed that it would not be the best decision to acquire the property.
“I say that because we’re going to be getting a lot of the county stuff here in another year and we’ll be having a lot more [property], potentially,” he said, referring to the parks district’s ongoing discussions with Island County about its park properties within South Whidbey’s boundaries, primarily Dave Mackie Park, Dan Porter Park and Freeland Park. “If we invest in something like this now and we have to make a choice between a piece of raw land in the woods or maintaining a boat launch or something like that … it serves the community better to work on a park or an established boat launch versus taking a raw piece of land.”
Schiendelman said she didn’t take the decision personally, and said that she understood the difficult decision between acquiring and maintaining in the present economy.