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Parks Board votes to OK dissolution

The South Kitsap Parks and Recreation Board apparently ended months of debate in a vote Thursday evening to accept Kitsap County’s settlement agreement.

The agreement transfers stewardship of South Kitsap Community Park over to Kitsap County, dissolves the current board and ends a lawsuit filed against the board by the county.

Additionally, Kitsap County will continue to hold the park and invest $2.19 million into maintaining and improving the park.

According to the settlement, Kitsap County will consolidate the park’s three separate properties and will not sell the park unless approved by the voters of South Kitsap.

Additionally, both the county and park tenants will have to agree to any contract changes made with the current tenants of the park.

Larry Walker, chair of the board called the offer “marvelous” at the meeting.

After discussion, board member Warren Collver made the motion to accept the proposal; Ron Flerx seconded it and both voted in favor.

Marjorie Rees voted against the proposal.

Though she made no comments on the proposal, Rees appeared visibly upset by the decision.

“I’m sorry Margie,” Walker said after the motion passed. “I know you were not in favor of this. And I would like to go on record saying that you are the strongest, most steadfast person I have known in my life.”

Although the agreement stipulates that the board dissolve at some as-yet-unspecified date, business will go on as usual, Walker said Monday.

“We still have to dump he trash and pay the bills,” he said. “We’re going to be holding interviews next week for the missing commissioner, assuming anyone wants to still come on board. There’s still the day-to-day operations.”

Long-time critic of the park and member of the unofficial “Grow The Park” group Kathryn Simpson was not present at the meeting, but said she was pleased by the decision.

“I’m really happy they made the right decision,” Simpson said Monday.

Simpson said now that the board has accepted the county’s proposal, she will focus her time in the education arena. Simpson serves as a member of the South Kitsap School District Board.

Simpson said her future involvement with the park will align with the hopes of the current board, though she will serve more as an observer than an active participant.

“Along with Larry and many others, I intend to hold the county to the commitments they made,” Simpson said.

Simpson wants to see the park grow to its full potential.

Architect Richard Swartz and Port Orchard resident Mary Colborn, who previously encouraged the board to continue without dissolution, will now work with the county to make their dream of a Chuck F. Jeu Family Recreation Center a reality.

The change in stewardship won’t affect their plans in the short term, they said, but Swartz did say that the county’s involvement could propose some challenges that would not have occurred working with the board.

“Getting the county to work with us is going to be much more difficult,” he said Monday. “They’re more restricted by public policy.”

Currently the group is still in the planning stages and hopes to have a board made up of professionals and members of the public within a month.

The finalization of the park transfer could take some time, Walker said, leaving the board overseeing the property until then. The next steps involve an official signing of the agreement between the board and Kitsap County, appealing to superior court to dismiss the county’s lawsuit and eventually dissolving.

Staff Writer Justine Frederiksen contributed to this article

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