The $1.6 million Torguson Park ball fields project is very nearly complete, with only a few bleachers, dugout benches and fencing issues to resolve at the fields, plus the installation of exercise stations along the new trail. Because of the recent warm weather, the city may delay the hydroseeding of the disturbed grassy areas until late summer, to save on irrigation costs. (Evan Pappas/Staff Photo)

North Bend residents support idea of parks bond at town hall on parks acquisitions

North Bend already has lots of parks and open spaces, by national standards, but not nearly enough by local measures.

The 50-plus people who attended a North Bend Town Hall meeting July 18 to discuss the city’s current and future parks situation were all in favor of buying more land for parks, especially land currently proposed for residential developments.

That’s despite the city’s current 600 acres of park land, approximately 10 times more than the national standard for open spaces in cities, and significantly more than city’s own standard of 40 acres of park land per 1,000 people.

“And that’s just within the city limits,” said North Bend City Administrator Londi Lindell. The 600 acres doesn’t include the adjacent 21,000-acre Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area.

Lindell recapped the town hall meeting at the meeting of the city council which followed it, and told the council that residents spoke unanimously in support of a bond measure ranging from $7 to $10 million for additional parks, open space and trails. This bond measure would require a 50 percent majority approval and would span nine years.

City officials decided to call the town hall meeting as a result of two recent citizen initiatives to attempt the preservation of land slated for residential development, and a growing anti-development sentiment.

The goal of the meeting was to answer the question, “Would the citizens like to have a war chest to buy land to keep it from being developed?” Lindell had said before the meeting.

Afterward, she told the council, “You’d definitely have a ‘pro’ committee (for the voters’ guide statement) if you wanted to have a bond measure.”

Citizens voted informally by marking their priorities with stickers on the city’s presentation boards, and the vote showed a strong interest in building that war chest for the city.

They also prioritized existing planned park and trail projects and future projects. The Tanner Trail along North Bend Way, river levee trails and Rattlesnake Mountain Trailhead were chosen the top three future trail projects. The top voted future park projects were Dahlgren Family Park and whitewater access improvement to Tanner Landing Park, Spray Park and adding new playground equipment at Si View Neighborhood Park and E.J. Roberts Park.

Many of those who spoke indicated support for the vision of maintaining North Bend’s rural character and preserving its natural beauty. Continuing the conversation at the city council meeting, several members of the public continued to press the city on preserving land and limiting development, by limiting the rights of property owners.

“We have rights, too, and I think they count,” Ann Herman told the council.

Lindell said some of the comments indicated that “Most people think government has unlimited power. We can’t just tell a property owner, ‘give us half your land for a park.’ What we can do is buy land, for fair market value.”

The North Bend conversation on parks will continue on Thursday, when members of the Parks Commission host a booth at the North Bend Farmers Market, to take public input on future parks projects and planning. In addition to this week’s market, the commission will also have a booth at the market on Sept. 7.

For more information, contact Mike McCarty or Lynn Hyde at the Community and Economic Development Dept. at mmccarty@northbendwa.gov or lhyde@northbendwa.gov.

Another long-awaited Torguson Park project was completed last month, when John Day Homes voluntarily demolished the park storage building damaged in a 2014 gas explosion at a nearby business. The work would have cost the city more than $25,000 otherwise. (Photo courtesy of City of North Bend)

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