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Rotary's park takeover plan gets brushoff

The Port Orchard Rotary sparked an unexpected storm when, in April, it sent a letter to the South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District commissioners asking them to give up their seats and turn South Kitsap Community Park over to Rotary control.

Rotary president-elect Lary Coppola said the request was part of the group’s plan to “think big” for the upcoming Rotary centennial — an anniversary that all local Rotaries have been asked to honor with a special centennial community service project.

Coppola said the group originally planned to do a Sept. 11 memorial in the Bethel Road roundabout, but Coppola changed his mind when he read a story in the paper about the park’s plight.

“The park has stagnated so long, the parks board has no real credibility in the community,” Coppola said. “We felt that no matter what we did, it would be better than what’s being done now.”

Coppola said preliminary plans called for installing a community activity center similar to one backed by former Parks Commissioner Chuck Jeu. Other plans, he said, would have come out after the Rotary members had a chance to go over the site and see what there was to work with.

The parks board, however, was not thrilled to get Coppola’s letter. New Parks Commissioner John Palo expressed incredulity that the Rotary would ask them to voluntarily abandon their elected seats and dissolve the district.

Commission chair Larry Walker said the Rotary’s offer was “extremely insulting” and objected to the whole manner in which Coppola made his proposal.

“The letter was not received favorably (by the board), let’s put it that way,” Walker said. “We were shocked by the arrogance.”

Walker said he told Coppola the district was in the middle of its master planning process and couldn’t make major decisions until it was finished. He said he encouraged Rotary to participate in the process, but Coppola appeared only interested in either taking over the park completely or having two parks commissioners turn their seats over to Rotarians.

“I said they’re elected positions, so (Rotarians) are welcome to run,” Walker said. “Honestly, if the Rotary would come to us in some kind of partnership thing, that would be something we could work with.”

Coppola said it was not the Rotary’s intention to “kick anyone out of their jobs” and said there were plenty of other options for the centennial project. The Rotary has until mid-summer to come up with a project idea and until “whenever” to complete it.

“We just looked at this as a great thing we could do,” Coppola said.

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