Alex Wisniewski, the director of Port Townsend’s parks, recreation and community services department, leads a group discussion at the Cotton Building. Wisniewski and other group facilitators asked the public where gaps currently exist in the city’s parks inventory. (Brian McLean/Peninsula Daily News)

Alex Wisniewski, the director of Port Townsend’s parks, recreation and community services department, leads a group discussion at the Cotton Building. Wisniewski and other group facilitators asked the public where gaps currently exist in the city’s parks inventory. (Brian McLean/Peninsula Daily News)

Trails, indoor facilities lead Port Townsend parks priorities

Draft plan to be presented in early 2020

PORT TOWNSEND — The city parks system has a greater rate of acres per 1,000 people than many of its neighbors, but not all of them are developed, and the public is being asked to identify gaps in service.

About 75 people attended a workshop last Tuesday night at the Cotton Building in downtown Port Townsend, where representatives from BERK Consulting of Seattle interpreted data gathered mostly from city residents on how they use parks.

The city has about 202 acres — not including Fort Worden State Park or North Beach County Park — a rate of 21 acres per 1,000 people, higher than Sequim (15.2), Port Angeles (13.8) and Poulsbo (12.1).

Now it’s working to identify public priorities on how to manage what it currently has in addition to potential funding sources for future growth.

A draft plan will be prepared this month, and a public hearing will be scheduled for January or February. The Port Townsend City Council is expected to adopt a plan by March 1.

The city is updating a five-year-old comprehensive parks plan so as to be eligible for grant funding from the state Recreation and Conservation Office, said Alex Wisniewski, the city’s parks, recreation and community services director.

“We’re going to take some of the concepts that we’re showing and diving a little deeper into those, and we’re taking some of the information we had and putting them into concept ideas in parks,” he said.

“It’s refined spaghetti-against-the-wall.”

The high-level concepts last Tuesday focused on public input with more than 900 online survey respondents and several workshops, including three classes with about 90 Blue Heron Middle School students.

The respondents’ top facilities included trails for walking, hiking and biking, as well as indoor facilities and open space.

The Mountain View Commons, including the swimming pool and the YMCA, are components of the overall plan, but they weren’t the focus of the survey, Wisniewski said.

The Port Townsend Golf Club has a separate operating lease that will be discussed as it approaches its expiration at the end of 2020, he said.

10-minute walk

One of the top public requests for the plan is to ensure access and quality for parks within a 10-minute walk anywhere in the city, said Lisa Grueter, a principal with BERK Consulting.

Grueter said 82 percent of respondents live in Port Townsend, and an additional 9 percent work in the city.

There were similar amounts of people represented in different neighborhoods, she said.

“We got feedback from each part of the city, which is great,” Grueter said.

Some of the results were skewed by age, with those 60 and older representing a larger portion. That group wanted to see more gathering spaces, habitat restoration and the completion of a loop trail, she said.

Meanwhile, the middle school students were more interested in play activities such as a spray park or a climbing wall, she said.

“The areas where we’re seeing gaps would be the west and central areas,” Grueter said. “The city gateway and entrance doesn’t really have a recreational space or serve a recreational need.”

Those who attended Tuesday’s workshop broke into small work groups and used dots and pens to detail potential park expansions.

35th Street

Juliet Vong, the president of HBB Landscape Architecture of Seattle, provided alternatives and suggestions for several parks, including 35th Street, a completely undeveloped parcel in the western part of the city.

“We hard a lot about what you could do with this site, and they were very conflicting,” Vong said.

One option showed active recreational activities such as sports courts. The other was more natural with passive recreation, she said.

Vong also presented a vision of Sather Park on the top of Morgan Hill. Currently a forested area with trails in it, she said there is unimproved open space across the street.

“We did look at whether this was a place for fitness,” she said.

A design showed the size and scale of a play area with a formal lawn. There also was a concept of nature play with logs, rocks and stepping stones.

“Those tend to fit better in a forested setting, because there’s not as much variety in what kids can do on them,” she said.

Grueter and Vong both said any additional playgrounds would be built according to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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