News

Plan but no money for two city parks

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

New master plans for Lakota and Sacajawea parks are finished and ready for City Council approval, but it could be years before Federal Way saves enough money to make the proposed changes –– currently estimated at a combined $23 million.

Sacajawea and Lakota parks share several similarities: Both were transferred to the city from King County when Federal Way incorporated in 1990, and both are next to middle schools but see a significant amount of public and athletic club use.

Both parks also are getting older and starting to suffer the effects of age and bad drainage, officials say.

“The facilities are just really run down, and both sites have severe drainage problems,” parks planner Betty Sanders said, adding the fields get “soggy to the point of being dangerous.”

In 2004, the city hired MacLeod Reckord and PACE Engineers to draft plans to redevelop both parks to make them accessible to a broader variety of uses.

The design firms’ mission, according to city officials, was to propose new plans that would maintain the existing number of appropriately sized athletic fields, use artificial turf for some of them and better design techniques and drainage for all of them, provide additional parking, add recreational amenities like trails, playgrounds and picnic areas, and improve the appearance of the parks so they feel more “parklike” to visitors.

The designs the firms came up with show significant improvements at both parks. In addition to more parking and drainage basins, plans for Lakota Park include new synthetic turf outfields and lighting, which would allow one baseball and two softball games to be played at the same time. There also would be two soccer fields and bleachers at the backstops.

The track would be relocated, expanded to eight lanes and surfaced with a new synthetic material, and bleachers would be built into a slope for track and field events spectators.

A public gathering area, a children’s play area, a restroom and a basketball court would border the north side of the site, and new tree plantings would buffer the outer edge of parking lots from traffic on Southwest Dash Point Road, which curves around the property.

For more passive uses, the southeast corner of the park would include a restroom, sand volleyball courts, a children’s play area and a picnic shelter. A walking trail punctuated with exercise stations would lead into the wetland area, where three platforms would provide resting points and natural views.

While Sacajawea Park needs less work, it also would receive some improvements to the ball fields and track, some additional parking, stormwater drainage improvements and some extra landscaping and tree-planting, officials said.

Sacajawea’s existing track would be expanded to eight lanes and surfaced with a new synthetic material, but it would remain where it is so it wouldn’t interfere with the ball fields. A long-jump and pole vault pit with synthetic runways would be located to the north of the track, and a synthetic surface for high-jump and shot-put competitions would be located in the track. All the track and field area would be lighted, and track bleachers would be set into the hillside.

The baseball and softball fields would be rotated so their fields wouldn’t overlap any more, and they’d be lighted and installed with artificial turf. A children’s play area, four tennis courts, a restroom, and a picnic area would be installed as passive recreational areas in the southeast portion of the park.

Sanders said the Parks Department worked with the community during two rounds of public open houses on each park. The city specifically invited the athletic organizations that use the parks regularly, and Sanders said there was a good turnout of people interested in providing input.

A Lakota Middle School leadership class adopted the park as its project, surveying classmates and offering input to the city.

Parks officials also met regularly with the city’s Parks Commission several times for updates and input from commission members on the progress of the plans. The City Council’s Parks, Recreation and Public Safety Committee reviewed the plans earlier this month.

While the site plans look promising for the older park properties, the costs are significant: The Lakota Park project is estimated to run more than $12.5 million, and the Sacajawea project is estimated to be more than $11 million. Because of that, interim city manager Derek Matheson said it’s hard to tell when the projects might be done.

“It’s budget-dependent,” he said. “We’re looking at $11 million to $12 million each, and we just don’t have that money on-hand.”

If council members like what the Parks Department and the design firms have come up with for Lakota and Sacajawea parks, the city could launch a more detailed level of design work that could produce more definite costs. After that, parks officials would have some idea of how to build the project in phases.

To pay for the project, the council could authorize city officials to pursue grants and state and federal money and set aside some city funds in future budgets for what would most likely be phased improvements.

But Sanders said parks officials aren’t seeking a timeline from the council at this point. They just want to hear if the council approves of the plans as they’ve been proposed so far.

“The master plan is still general. It says, ‘Here’s the direction we want to go. Council, do you agree with all the public who’ve led us here?’” she said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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