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Blackjack Creek Park gets green light from city

Calling it an “exciting project,” the Port Orchard City Council last week unanimously approved the proposed Blackjack Creek Park, along with all the environmental variances it needs to get underway.

“I’d like to commend you for your efforts,” said city Councilman Ron Rider. “I wish there were more projects like this going on in the city.”

The park, designed as a narrow strip of greenery with picnic areas and a gazebo between Westbay Shopping Center’s parking lot and Blackjack Creek, is the pet project of South Kitsap Rotary Club.

The project is intended to help the club celebrate its 100th birthday by giving a little something back to the community. Rotary members have been fundraising madly all year to help defray the estimated $50,000 cost of the park and, according to Rotary reports, they are more than two-thirds of the way to their goal.

“This is a small park, but we have a grand vision,” said SK Rotary member Mike Savage, who has taken the lead on the project.

The park proposal ran into some problems when it came before the Port Orchard Planning Commission, but the city council didn’t appear to share the commission’s level of concern.

The Rotary spokesmen who presented the project admitted there were still some residual access issues, including some agreements that needed to be worked out with neighbors Westbay Shopping Center and KeyBank.

However, the council seemed to be comfortable leaving it up to the various property and business owners to work out.

The one planning commission concern that the city council seemed to see as a real potential problem was the issue of parking. Although the city engineer helped prepare the project proposal, including its designation as a pedestrian-only park, the council wasn’t convinced it would be used only by pedestrians. The site plan includes no provisions from visitor parking and several council members said those who drove to the park would likely end up using Westbay’s and KeyBank’s private lots.

“It doesn’t take long for a common person to realize people are going to pull their cars in and park and go to the park,” said Councilwoman Rita DiIenno.

Others, however, saw the issue as one that could be addressed by requiring Rotary to install “no parking” signs and leaving it up to Westbay and the bank to make sure the rules were enforced.

“I don’t see how its the city’s problem,” said Councilwoman Carolyn Powers.

The council, after some brief discussion, also determined the park would not negatively affect the nearby waterways and gave the Rotary permission to build inside buffer zones typically maintained around bodies of water.

The Rotary plans to have a groundbreaking ceremony for the park on July 6. Because Rotary will still have to wait a few months beyond that for permits from the state, however, the park is not expected to be complete before February 2005.

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