County outlines solution for Klahanie Park
March 16, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Under a new proposal offered by King County, Issaquah could still receive Klahanie Park if the city someday annexed the surrounding neighborhood — even if Sammamish acquired the facility in the meantime.
King County Parks Director Kevin Brown offered a proposal to transfer ownership of the park to whichever city annexes Klahanie. Sammamish has proposed a takeover of Klahanie Park in unincorporated King County, but the offer has riled neighborhood residents.
If Issaquah ever annexes Klahanie — and if neighborhood residents vote for the proposal — Issaquah receives the park alongside the neighborhood.
If planners in both cities redraw long-term growth blueprints, Sammamish could annex Klahanie instead and keep the park. Although Klahanie and nearby neighborhoods border Issaquah and Sammamish, only Issaquah can annex the area under existing growth plans.
Issaquah City Council members referred the county proposal to a committee March 15. Services & Safety Committee members will discuss the legislation March 24.
The latest proposal for the park could alleviate concerns among Klahanie residents concerned about the future of the park. King County officials plan to close the park within months if a new operator cannot be found. The cash-strapped county wants to offload dozens of parks and facilities to local governments and organizations in order to end a budget crisis.
The county has plans to transfer ownership of 16 parks by June 2011 through annexations of county land by nearby cities. Agreements under consideration and potential annexations could remove another 13 facilities from the closure list.
The proposal notes how county, Issaquah and Sammamish officials believe Sammamish to be the best caretaker for the park until a city annexes the neighborhood.
Aside from Sammamish, the Klahanie homeowners group also expressed interest in running Klahanie Park. Neighborhood residents asked Issaquah to consider acquiring the park, but city officials cited prohibitive maintenance costs and said Klahanie Park should remain attached to the annexation area.
Members of the Issaquah and Sammamish city councils discussed the county proposal at a March 9 joint meeting.
Officials said the park issue could not be detached from the overarching question about annexation. A vote by Klahanie residents to be annexed into Issaquah faltered in 2005.
“We feel that, in terms of the Klahanie annexation, that it’s really up to Issaquah to let us know what they’re going to do,” Sammamish Deputy Mayor Nancy Whitten said.
Officials noted how neighborhood residents protested last summer after Sammamish officials offered to take on the park. Klahanie residents worried Sammamish could upgrade the facility, change the character of the park and attract more outsiders and traffic to the quiet neighborhood. Residents also raised concerns about ceding the park to Sammamish, where they lack the ability to vote in local elections.
“I would just like to perhaps acknowledge the fact that the city of Sammamish did step forward in an effort to solve a problem and to keep a park open,” Issaquah Councilman Fred Butler said. “You should be commended for that, but it sort of fell into the category of ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’”
Although officials from both cities expressed support for the county proposal, Sammamish council members questioned whether the city could recoup money spent to upgrade the park if Issaquah annexes Klahanie and receives the facility.
But council members said the annexation issue must be addressed in concert with the Klahanie Park discussion.
“We’d love to have Klahanie if they wanted us,” Whitten said. “But if they don’t want us, we don’t want to force ourselves on them. We don’t want to do something that they regard as hostile to the best interests to their community.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.