While some cities are buying new parkland, our Mercer Island City Council members have pledged to give our precious public parkland away — to a private group — so they can plunk down a huge building, with a projected deficit of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for 50-80 years. Furthermore, our City Council made this decision without a vote of the people who own the property — Mercer Island citizens.
According to the Spokesman-Review (Aug. 10, 2017), the Spokane Conversation District has purchased nearly 50 acres of a “defunct gravel quarry” to transform into a public park “with walking trails, a tree nursery and other natural attractions,” while Mercer Islanders will have a priceless and irreplaceable acre of parkland in our Town Center lost to the public forever.
Furthermore, the parkland our City Council agreed to give away includes a beautiful, shaded native garden with its own walking trails, at least 31 species of native plants and other natural attractions. These include a wetland, a solidly constructed Recycling Center that the City Council pledged in 2010 to preserve and repurpose for community needs and historic Bicentennial Park — funded, designed and built by Islanders over four decades (two generations) ago to commemorate our country’s bicentennial.
All of these irreplaceable areas are currently actively used by Islanders — the native garden for exploration and education; the Recycling Center for Youth and Family Services and Farmers Market storage, as well as for public restrooms; and Bicentennial Park for rest and relaxation by Town Center employees and visitors, especially during weekly summer Farmers Markets and summer events at Mercerdale Park.
The irony is that land is available on Mercer Island — in our Town Center as well as elsewhere — for sale. This land could be purchased by the private group so that the entire community would benefit, not only by saving our public parkland for future generations, but also by bringing together our divided community.
I hope that our council members will assist those who want free public parkland to instead purchase private land on Mercer Island for their construction. Land once given away is lost forever. Parkland saved for us and passed on to us by former citizens is not given to us for destruction, but is loaned to us to preserve for our children.