City, state join forces to improve Lake Sammamish State Park

July 3, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah and the state parks agency have agreed to coordinate efforts to create a better future for cash-strapped Lake Sammamish State Park.

Hugo Valdivieso, a worker for Lake Sammamish State Park, mows the shoulder of Northwest Sammamish Road in front of the park main entrance May 12. By Greg Farrar

The city could someday shoulder some responsibilities to maintain the state park, but the initial agreement between Issaquah and the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission is light on specifics.

The pact approved by the City Council in a unanimous decision June 18 calls for the city and state parks agency to “explore opportunities to improve community use” of park facilities, seek out funding to improve the park and dedicate staffers to develop recommendations for the park.

The agreement, or memorandum of understanding, is in effect through June 2013. The council decision did not allocate any funding to the park project.

“I’m delighted to see this partnership that we’ve had with Lake Sammamish State Park over the years continue in a more formal way,” Councilman Fred Butler said before the decision.

The effort, spearheaded by councilwomen Eileen Barber and Stacy Goodman, stemmed from a 2011 council retreat to set goals for 2012.

In discussion before the decision, Barber referenced plans to boost economic vitality and restore the park as a regional destination.

The park is just outside city limits and is surrounded by Issaquah on the shoreline sides.

In recent years, Lake Sammamish State Park faded from a popular regional destination due to state budget cuts, aging facilities and unfortunate incidents, such as a deadly gang shooting at a beachfront picnic area in July 2010.

Still, Butler referred to the park as a “gem in our community” due to recreational amenities and ecological resources.

Though the agreement lasts for only a year, city officials expect additional agreements in the future. The council listed the state park as a goal for 2013, but did not decide to put any dollars behind the effort.

The council decision to approve the memorandum of understanding is the latest measure in a long effort to address concerns about Lake Sammamish State Park.

Mayor Ava Frisinger formed a Lake Sammamish State Park Task Force — a pair of council members, City Administrator Bob Harrison, plus staffers from the municipal economic development and parks teams; and state parks staffers — to discuss solutions.

“Right now it’s an exploration — it’s a feasibility study, basically,” city Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said after the council decision. “How can we help? How can we work together on improving it?”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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