Issaquah officials want Klahanie Park decision to hinge on growth

February 26, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 26, 2010

City officials called Thursday for decisions about adding Klahanie Park to the municipal parks system to be made alongside long-term growth agreements.

Members of the Council Services & Safety Committee discussed the park Thursday night. The committee followed a recommendation from the city administration to weigh decisions about the park in conjunction with potential Klahanie annexations in mind.

Although Klahanie and nearby neighborhoods border Issaquah and Sammamish, the area is included only in long-term growth plans for Issaquah. Officials from both cities will discuss the issue and others at a March 9 joint meeting.

City officials also encouraged King County to forge a maintenance agreement with a volunteer group or government agencies to keep the park open.

The full council will discuss the issue at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Members meet in the Council Chambers at City Hall South, 135 E. Sunset Way.

County Parks Director Kevin Brown reiterated — as he has during earlier meetings about the park — the desire to close the park as soon as possible to save money for cash-strapped King County.

“Our timeframe for finding a solution is critical and short,” he said. “We do not have funding in our 2010 budget for this park, and to the extent that it stays open today, it takes away from other parks and levels of service have diminished.”

The county requested offers from sports groups and volunteer organizations after then-County Executive Kurt Triplett announced a plan in August to close Klahanie Park and 38 others. But the park attracted no interest aside from Sammamish and the Klahanie Association, the neighborhood homeowners group. The proposal by Sammamish to take over the park riled Klahanie residents, who then asked Issaquah officials to consider the park.

But Issaquah lacks the money and employees to maintain the park, officials said Thursday.

City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said the municipal park maintenance division remains understaffed due to a vacancy and a layoff. Officials stopped hiring for noncritical vacancies early last year, and then laid off 10 workers in September. Cuts and freezes also eliminated and reduced the amount the department can spend on supplies.

McGill noted how the parks system expanded in the meantime, as the city opened Harvey Manning Park at Talus, Squak Valley Park South and artificial turf fields at Central Park in the Issaquah Highlands.

Besides the employee and supply expenses, parks staffers estimate the cost to maintain Klahanie Park to city standards at $125,000 per year. King County spent $92,983 last year to maintain the park.

Moreover, McGill said a decision by Issaquah officials to take on Klahanie Park would require the City Council to authorize her to fill the vacant positions and restore spending for parks maintenance to pre-cuts levels.

“After careful and deliberate review of the current situation, the administration recommends that any decision regarding Klahanie Park should made in conjunction with a decision on annexation,” she said.

Councilman Tola Marts, a former Klahanie resident and a Services & Safety Committee member, said the strain on city finances prevented the city from taking on the park outright.

“We obviously are in a tough economic climate, and I don’t think we can take on any expenses, so the only way that Issaquah could look to do this is if there was some sort of mechanism” to join with other organizations to help maintain the park, he said.

McGill recalled how the Issaquah Soccer Club assumed soccer fields from Lake Sammamish State Park several years ago in order to keep the fields open. The parks director suggested a similar agreement as a way for King County to keep the park open.

“There are all kinds of different, creative ways you can enter into with different volunteer organizations in exchange for their use of the park — of certain parts of the park,” she said.

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2 Responses to “Issaquah officials want Klahanie Park decision to hinge on growth”

  1. Chris Hawkins on February 26th, 2010 12:59 pm

    I attended this meeting. The Warren’s report is excellent, but there is one other detail to add.

    At the meeting the option of transferring ownership of the park to the Klahanie homeowner’s association was discussed. Three problems emerged
    1. While the county can give the park to another government entity, it can only
    sell the park, at market value, to a private group.
    2. If a private group took ownership of the park, they would assume all liability
    for any injuries sustained at the park. This would mean purchase of insurance.
    3. Klahanie Park is used by several sports organizations, each of which pays
    a fee to use the park, and has fields scheduled for their use. This is a complex
    role for a private group to take over.

  2. Don Gibson on February 27th, 2010 4:14 pm

    Unfortunately what is not being mentioned is that Klahanie Park is referenced as “Klahanie Property” in the Klahanie CC&R’s. There is a lot of reference to “private” regarding the Klahanie HOA which is misleading and not completely accurate. Klahanie Park was developed and donated by the corporation that created Klahanie as a mitigating element to the high density housing the Klahanie developer sought and was ultimately granted. Klahanie Park is specifically referenced as “Klahanie property” and is to be maintained by King County until such a time that Klahanie is annexed to a city at which time the park would be governed by that entity as referenced below:

    “Declarant shall further convey not less than 30 acres of Klahanie to King County or the successor governmental entity with jurisdiction over the Klahanie Property, such acreage to be selected by Declarant and acceptable to King County, for a public park.”

    For the Klahanie HOA managing the park is not a complex issue as they already manage two swimming pools (with swim team contracts and scheduling) and one baseball field (with little league use). What most folk do not know is that the Klahanie HOA already spends tens of thousands of dollars to provide security and to remove non-native plants from the park. This is something that is done above and beyond King County involvement. The Klahanie HOA has already asked for and received an insurance quote, and cost estimates for the park maintenance and operations is actually between $50,000 and $90,000. What is not mentioned is the fact that Clear Wire is planning on placing a tower in the park and the projected $36,000 annual revenue that would be realized by the owners of the park; combine this with the $66,000 already set aside in the KHOA budget for the park and the cost to run the park would not increase homeowner dues. In this scenario the County sheds the financial burden and County residents still have Klahanie park available and unchanged.

    Klahanie and Klahanie Park are inextricably linked both legally and historically and Klahanie Park can certainly be transferred to the Klahanie HOA as is indicated in the Klahanie HOA governing documents. Kevin Brown is incorrect and this is not the first time King County has misspoken on this issue.

    The question to ask King County is why then if then park cannot be transferred to the Klahnie HOA did they insist we submit a ” transfer proposal” post haste to meet their 1st quarter deadline in 2010?

    Once a proposal was submitted (after a lot of work) King County is now saying oops we changed our mind and now it looks like it will have to go up for auction unless we give it to a city. Furthermore, why did Dow Constatine public ask for proposals from any and all applicants with no mention of a public auction. The County’s actions and words are not consistent and should not be taken as gospel. Next there will be a “serious” threat of closure unless we agree to let Sammamish take the park. The fix has been in since 2008 and it sure looks like King County is pulling out all of the stops to make sure it happens that way.

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