I will be voting NO to the Park District - and I am not a developer. And I know this issue inside and out. I have at times led the effort to save trees on the southside, and have all my life advocated for our environment. This tax is onerous and will hamper future efforts for Greenways Four and the proponents are less than honest about what is in the ballot measure.
Voting for the Park District in order to supposedly “save” a very small part of the huge Chuckanut Park from possibly being used for homes is like giving a sledge hammer to a group of people for who like to hammer things when all we have to do is drive in one nail. They may well find other things to hammer - other things to tax us for and “save”. They may not sit with a sledge hammer for 10 years and do nothing.
First, the group is being - shall we say - less than honest in suggesting we have to save the forest. Gentle reader, the forest has been saved. Our Bellingham City Council and former mayor Dan Pike saved it in 2011 by buying the entire thing from the bank for $8 million. It is saved. Now. Already. It is ours.
We now have 5 years in which to figure out how to reimburse a city park maintenance fund that was used for $3 million of the purchase. Everyone - council, mayor, citizens - is willing to find a solution. A community wide solution - a city wide solution. This Chuckanut Park, along with Fairhaven Park and Larrabee Park and Connelly Creek Natural Area and Woodstock Park, are all treasures of Bellingham's southside and everyone from Bellingham, Whatcom County and Skagit County and the whole world can enjoy them. Now and forever.
There is a small part of less ecologically important land along Chuckanut Drive that might make great housing area and provide enough money to pay some or all of the loan. Or the next Greenways Levy might have sufficient money to pay it off. Or, some other solution can be found. No public process has tried to define options - not yet.
What has happened is some of our more green southside residents - and especially those who live near the park - have panicked and feel we must immediately resolve the loan issue. They do not trust in city hall nor Greenways committee. And I am hardly one to trust city hall or the secretive methods of the Greenways Committee and the manipulations of our Parks Department.
But creating a new government agency with the power to tax, condemn land, sell bonds, increase taxes and never go out of existence is very much the wrong move. I know that with good active citizenship and public effort we can solve this situation to the common community wide satisfaction.
The group behind the park district is not interested in any solution but their own - keeping every square foot a park. This may be foolish. The city bought a huge tract of land and all the high hills and wetlands are valuable and securely saved. But the group is hell bent to save every square foot of the land purchase for park.
And so, to drive a single nail - to find a solution to a single loan - we are not being asked for a community wide use of a hammer but are rather being asked to buy a sledge hammer and give exclusive use of it to a group for years.
In closing, my comments and all those who write against this park district, are being labeled “fear tactics”. In one sense the group is right - I fear giving this much power to another government agency. Where they are wrong is to think fear is inappropriate. This park district plan is irresponsible and reckless. It is a panic solution to a community problem which we have 5 years to solve.
Vote NO for the Metro Parks District. And if you oppose this, then it is most important that you vote NO because a simple majority will pass this. No minimum vote is needed. Not voting is a half vote for the park.
Update: If you vote no, also then vote for Anna Williams for the park district board. She is opposed to this park district but is runninng so we have a watchdog on the board who, even if a minority, can speak out from the board.