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Park’s grand ambitions still come at a cost
Are we the only ones whose reaction the big plans unveiled last week for South Kitsap Regional Park is
closer to ambivalence than giddiness?
Clearly the mood in the room when county officials showed off their proposed design ranged from satisfaction to unbridled joy. And just in case there were any stragglers still on the fence about it, Kitsap Parks and Recreation Director Chip Faver was on hand to present an encore performance of the televangelist schtick he lapses into at such occasions to whip the crowd up to a fever pitch in support of these projects.
Not that there isn’t a lot to like about what’s on the drawing board, mind you. The planned improvements include:
• an entry plaza/portal at the corner of Jackson and Lund, where pedestrians can enter the park;
• a 35,000-square-foot, state-of-the art skate park, just inside the park at the Lund entrance;
• parking space for 700 cars and a drive-though option that would allow visitors to enter the park on Jackson Avenue and exit on Lund Avenue — something they can’t do now;
• four regulation soccer fields that can be reconfigured for football and four other fields that can work for either baseball or softball, as well as basketball, horseshoes, tennis and volleyball facilities;
• areas set aside for an amphitheater, community gardens, an arboretum, an open lawn area and BMX track; and,
• an enhanced system of hiking trails on the majority majority of the park’s 200 acres.
Obviously there’s something in the plan for just about everyone. But of course there’s still the persistent question of how to pay for all of these new bells and whistles.
And since the skate park alone, for example, has a projected price tag of $850,000, it’s pretty clear all of this splendor isn’t going to come cheap.
It’s also pretty clear the county, which is already running at a deficit, isn’t going to be writing out a lot of big checks, either.
The most commonly voiced funding solution is that old standby — state and federal grant money. Which sounds just fine if you’re carried away with the idea of building a pretty new community resource in South Kitsap and not too fussy about sticking someone else with the bill for it.
But this whole thing just doesn’t feel quite right to us.
The fact is, South Kitsap residents have been presented with numerous bond measures over the years that would have raised money to maintain and improve the park. Some of the plans have been more ambitious than others, but all of them had two things in common — the need to raise local property taxes and, not coincidently, lopsided failure at the ballot box.
It may be true that many of those who opposed previous park bonds have been converted into supporters this time around by the simple expedient of shifting the lion’s share of the project’s cost to taxpayers who live far enough away to derive little or no use from a gussied-up community park in our little corner of the world.
You can also argue that South Kitsap has been stuck with the tab enough times for projects built in Bremerton or Bainbridge Island, to name just two, that it’s about time someone else paid for something we can enjoy.
But your mother was onto something when she used to tell you that two wrongs don’t make a right, and we can’t completely get our head around the proposition that we should celebrate having someone else buy us something we didn’t think was worth spending our own money on.
None of which is to say we don’t support the general idea of park improvements or that we’re critical of those who have worked hard for them.
It just bears noting at times like these that nothing in life is truly free, no matter how much it may feel like it when you can persuade someone else to pay for it.