Parks and rec district abandons restructure plans

North Whidbey Pool, Park and Recreation District calls off push for a metropolitan park district.

The North Whidbey Pool, Park and Recreation District is calling off its push for a metropolitan park district.

The effort to restructure the district began in March when parks and rec commissioners presented to the Oak Harbor city council. By getting approval from both the council and the Island County commissioners, it could skip the petitioning process to get the change on the primary ballot.

Last month, both the city council and the county commissioners rescinded their support, as the approved property tax rate outlined on the ballot didn’t match what the district sought. While this would be a relatively easy fix by the August deadline for the November ballot, the district has hit even more snags, said Parks and Rec Commissioner Bill Larsen.

Some of the land that would be transferred from the parks and rec district to the metro district has restrictions per the deed, Larsen said. It will take more time to sort out.

Part of the push for the new district is because of the fear of closing the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool, which happened after the levy failed in 2017. Metro districts can collect property taxes without having to ask voters to pass a levy on a regular basis.

Larsen is confident, with the improvements to the facility and expansion of services in recent years and added value to the community, this won’t be a problem this year.

“You’re always a little concerned, especially when you need to get that majority,” he said, “but they passed it last time, and things have only improved immensely since then.”

The district plans on pushing again for the metro district within a year or two, Larsen said.

“This isn’t a knee jerk reaction to something,” he said. “This isn’t because of any internal strife or anything on those lines. This is us taking a step back to do this the right way.”