News

West Hylebos park dropping 'state' from name

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

West Hylebos Wetlands State Park is all but signed, sealed and delivered to the city of Federal Way.

The state Parks Commission has approved a plan to put the park under city control and Governor Gary Locke has signed off on it. All that remains is for the city to formally accept the transfer and King County to record it.

Federal Way officials requested the transfer, saying it makes more sense for the city to maintain the park. The state is giving ownership of the site to the city, which has agreed to keep the 73 acres undeveloped and open.

"This is not unusual," said Virginia Painter, a spokeswoman for the commission. "Two other state parks have been transferred to cities when the parks' characteristics seemed more fitting to those cities."

West Hylebos Wetlands State Park, a lush forested and swampy area, is in the middle of an otherwise urban setting just east of First Avenue South between South 348th and South 356th streets.

Although its acreage would make it the second-largest city park, its public uses are limited mostly to strolls on a mile-long boardwalk. Camping isn't allowed.

The park land was originally owned by Francis and Ilene Marckx, who gave it to the state in 1981 on the condition that it remain natural forever.

The city already has 25 parks and two more small ones in development, but West Hylebos isn't expected to be a financial burden, despite plans by the city to build a new parking lot for it on South 348th Street. Officials have said the park can be maintained for about $5,000 a year in labor and materials. In addition, a $250,000 state grant is available for repairs of the boardwalk, which has depended on volunteers for maintenance.

No opposition was reported when the Parks Commission met June 17 to consider the park's transfer.

The matter was sufficiently settled in advance that no advocates of the change of ownership attended the meeting, said Chris Carrel, executive director of Friends of the Hylebos Wetlands, a Federal Way-based environmental group that has served as a steward of the park.

"The feeling is that it makes more sense for the city to run this park," he said.

The state has 121 other parks. Because of budget shortages in recent years, park officials have sought new sources of funding to maintain parks, including a $5-per-vehicle admission fee that's in its second year.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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