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Easter Egg Hunt might have to move

For 15 years, kids of all ages have enjoyed searching for Easter eggs at South Kitsap Community Park.  - Jesse Beals/Staff Photo
For 15 years, kids of all ages have enjoyed searching for Easter eggs at South Kitsap Community Park.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photo

One thing’s for sure — tomorrow at noon hundreds of kids will be running through South Kitsap Community Park looking for brightly colored eggs as they’ve done for the past 15 years.

Next year, however, organizer Jessie Turner said the popular annual event may have to move.

“We got a letter from the county saying that this is the last year we could do it for free,” Turner said, explaining that while previously the park was owned by the now dissolved SK Parks and Recreation District, Kitsap County took over ownership of the park last year.

“I don’t know what they are going to charge us ... (but) it doesn’t cost the parks anything,” she continued, explaining that the event is put on cooperatively by the Fathoms o’Fun Festival Association, Port Orchard Soroptimists, Kiwanis of South Kitsap, the Port Orchard Eagles, Buck’s A&W restaurant and Kitsap Live Steamers. “I don’t see how it should cost us.”

Turner, who has been organizing the event for all its 15 years, said she helped start it when she was a commissioner for the SK parks board as a way to encourage the community to come to the park.

“It was partly so people would understand that there was a park there,” she said, describing the event as one that attracts the largest group of people to the park each year. “I think it’s a tremendous benefit to the community and I hope we can continue to use the park.”

If not, Turner said the event would continue — just at another location.

“There is no doubt that it will (go on),” she said, explaining that at least one local church has offered to help host the egg hunt next year.

As for the county charging for use of the park, Elizabeth Ratliff with the county’s Facilities, Parks and Recreation department said the letter Turner received had “standard language” the county had been using in correspondence, and it did not mean the group would have to pay next year to use the park.

“Right now we are in flux about what we are going to be doing,” Ratliff said, adding that the groups “will be not charged to utilize the park” for the egg hunt.

However, the department’s director Chip Faver said Thursday that his staff was still “struggling (to figure out how to) spread the one-half cent per $1,000 of property value to all the different programs.”

So far, Faver said his department cut “virtually 100 percent” of the community events it hosts, and other changes will include either fee increases or new fees, such as to use picnic shelters at county parks.

“The public is beginning to understand what it takes to operate the county’s parks,” he said. “We are only charging what makes sense and what people can afford. We are not out to make a profit, but maintain the parks.”

For now, the free event is scheduled to begin — rain or shine — tomorrow at noon at the park, which has entrances on both Jackson and Lund avenues, with signups at 11 a.m.

It is open to children under 10 who are accompanied by an adult, and the “first 500 children signed in will receive a free stuffed animal or toy.”

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