Members of the community overwhelmed the Bonney Lake Justice Center to capacity this Monday at the first annual to hear about the future of outdoor recreation in town.
Even during the highest temperatures of the year, about 70 people showed up to hear more about plans for future open space development and discuss how city taxpayers could pay for it.
“I’m excited that we are really going to put forward some energy and effort into parks for the citizens of Bonney Lake,” said Park Board director Darren Proctor. “This issue is definitely in the forefront now and I think it shows the council and administration that something has to be done for parks and recreation.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Bonney Lake Mayor Neil Johnson laid some ground rules – this wasn’t a forum to discuss elements of the park plan, which has already been approved, he said. It was an opportunity to gauge resident support of a possible voter measure.
When Bonney Lake City Administrator Don Morrison asked for a show of hands of who supported which park element, a majority raised their hands in favor of ball fields. Trail supporters had the second-most supporters in the room, followed by a community center/YMCA.
“Who gets theirs first? The council will look at land availability, linkages and basically how close the project is to being ‘shovel ready.’ That will help determine what goes first,” said Morrison. “It will also be the one most likely to be approved by a majority of voters.”
There was no time for public comment at the Summit, but the group was split into two groups – one to discuss plans for a voter bond, the other to discuss designs for ball fields and a sports complex.
Proctor led the design group, made up of Valley Wolfpack parents and other local sports teams, including parents and staff from the Sumner School District. He asked for the group’s “wish list” of future ball fields. The group consensus was that the community needs four baseball fields, four soccer fields and one rugby field to accommodate it’s future needs and to make the project lucrative for the downtown business core.
When it came to a support of a particular funding model for the Parks Plan, most favored the Metropolitan Park District idea but with a mix of elected citizen and city council board members.
Included in the group that evening were community members interested in local arts and cultural development, which Proctor suggested could be incorporated into the ball field design – murals, park benches and sculptures. Johnson also suggested that arts and culture could be incorporated into the design of a future sports pavilion.
However, some members of the community questioned its place in the Parks Plan, as there is no budget line for culture or heritage development.
Johnson and city officials had little to say about the Arts and Cultural Heritage Plan, an element of the Comprehensive Plan approved by the city council in December 2011. Johnson said it wasn’t included in the early design phases of the Parks Plan but is still an element of the city’s future development.
The Fennel Creek Preservation Group showed their support for the trail project by wearing Victor Falls T-shirts and asking pointed questions of city officials.
The price point of the Fennel Creek trail is approximately $1 million per mile, but trail advocates spoke to the value of the project and the importance of its development.
The four identified needs for Bonney Lake citizens – trails, a community center/YMCA, ball fields and park development are all still on the table.
Next, the Park Board will provide Johnson with additional feedback from the Summit at their regular meeting on Monday, then Johnson will present the information to the council. After council discussion, it’s likely another meeting on a parks bond will be scheduled soon.
Proctor said that, in his mind, the next important decision would be where acres of ball fields and a sports pavilion will be built.
“Site selection is kind of paramount and will determine how successful this is, moving forward,” said Proctor. “I hope the administration doesn’t have any preconceived notions of what they want and where they want it. I hope they keep an open mind and continue to listen to the people.”
Read more about the Bonney Lake Parks Plan in our 3-part series and take our reader poll: