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Ensuring open space for life

KINGSTON — The Kingston Parks, Trails and Open Space committee wants to find out who in the North End would be interested in making sure local parks stay as green and well-kept as they are now.

While the county often works with community groups in acquiring open space and, at the same time, tries to maintain its current parks, the KPTOS group is proposing a new tool that would ensure consistent funding for parks for the future.

Creating a metropolitan parks district (MPD) would provide financial support for property acquisition as well as management and improvements to North Kitsap’s parks, said KPTOS member Walt Elliott.

Currently, members are proposing that the MPD boundaries include everything in Keyport and north, roughly equivalent to the North Kitsap School District boundaries.

The MPD measure, which the group is pushing to have on the 2006 ballot, would have two proposals — to create a metropolitan parks district and to elect five people for a board of commissioners. Part of the proposal would be to implement a property tax of up to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation to generate funding for the district.

If approved, the board would determine which projects need to be done, prepare a budget and figure out how much the district needs to be taxed. Money generated would be used solely for parks and would not go into the county’s general fund.

“From a voter’s standpoint, the advantage is that you know the money will go to parks,” Elliott said, noting that if passed in 2006, there could be money to spend as early as 2008.

Currently, Elliott and the group are making presentations to various communities to generate interest. They eventually want to develop a stakeholders group in the fall that would start work on researching and developing its ballot measure for the 2006 election. However, the group may find that there is not enough interest in the area to justify the district.

“There needs to be some groundwork done to see if it should be a great idea,” Elliott said. “We know a lot of reasons in Kingston (why) it needs to be done but we don’t know about the rest of the North End.”

So far, Elliott and his group has talked with the Kingston Citizens Advisory Committee. He plans to talk with community groups in Hansville and Vinland, plus the North Kitsap School District, Poulsbo City Council and Olympic Property Group.

There are several benefits to the voters, Elliott said — the cost of acquiring and maintaining property is shared with the county and other agencies that have similar interests; the tax ensures continual funding for the district; and there is local visibility and control of funding, he said.

He believes that as young families and retirees move to Kitsap County in the next couple decades, they will want to have quality parks and recreation facilities, much like what current residents strive for today.

“The benefit is to have the programs and facilities to meet the needs of the people moving here” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to preserve the quality of life as we transition from a rural community to a semi-urban community.”

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