City backs off selling parks

"POULSBO - Open space lovers can sleep a little bit easier tonight - Mitchusson Park and Forest Rock Hill Park are apparently here to stay. Two weeks after the Poulsbo Finance Committee made the declaration that it was considering the sale of the two sites, the group Wednesday night officially pulled the 3.06-acre Forest Rock Hill property off the possible list. They also agreed to go forward with a wetlands study of the 9.5-acre Mitchusson Park to determine how much of the land was fully usable. Councilwoman Jackie Aitchison, who at a Jan. 3 meeting said she thought the city should sell the 9.5-acre parcel, reversed her position this week following a good deal of public input. Aitchison said she had also received an e-mail on the subject from Barbara Mitchusson, wife of former Mayor Mitch Mitchusson, the park's namesake. They don't want us to sell the park, Aitchison said, noting that the protest had nothing to do with the name of the land in question as far as the Mitchussons were concerned. One suggestion has been that a park be created at the site in which donors would purchase trees in memory of their loved ones. The committee also reviewed a Dec. 5 memorandum from Mary McCluskey, parks and recreation director, which clearly stated the Poulsbo Parks and Recreation Commission's opposition to the proposal. The P & R Commission feels strongly that this piece of property needs to be preserved for the future, McCluskey stated, noting that large open space sites in the city limits were rare. Getting rid of this land does not make sense to this city commission - the land is irreplaceable. Despite McCluskey's strong words over a month ago, the finance committee pursued the idea of selling the $306,780 property because the city still owes approximately $221,000 on the land. Councilman Ed Stern reasoned that the city should focus on developing and improving existing parks rather than spending vast amounts of money on open space properties. The city is currently land rich and money poor as Aitchison explained. Although this may indeed be the case, Councilman Dale Rudolph said he felt it was important that Poulsbo keep its open space lands and parks but develop a workable plan to enhance them as well. I disagree with (selling) Forest Rock Hill Park, Rudolph said. The small site, he added, was currently surrounded by homes and offered residents in that neighborhood at least some nearby recreational space. If we don't keep that park, we'll have to find something else in that area later. As for Mitchusson Park, where tenants at an on-site house pay monthly rent to the city, he remarked, If it's being used, I see no problem holding onto it for now, but I still would like to see a plan. Poulsbo owns 47 separate properties both inside and outside of the city limits. Many of the 157 acres involved, which have a combined value of over $9.8 million, are unmarketable and house city facilities such as buildings, wells and water tanks. Stern started to get in the spirit of the discussion as he checked other properties off the for sale list - some of which can't be sold anyway. Lion's Park... wonderful park... Raab Park... wonderful park, he remarked with a smile. Small postage stamp properties at Haven Heights, which have no apparent value, will likely go on the chopping block though. These are the silliest parks in the world, Stern said. In addition to the land at Haven Heights, the finance committee will be looking into the potential sale of the Lincoln Road triangle as well as a small portion of Nelson Park near Viking Avenue. The group also plans to direct Poulsbo's Community Services Committee to do a feasibility study on possible uses of Mitchusson Park. "

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