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Park comments pouring in

By Wendy Giroux

Trails and environmental education elements could be added to Upper Luther Burbank Park.

The northern and southern portions of the park would remain quiet, contemplative areas with walking paths and wetland viewing areas.

Higher-intensity uses such as small-craft boating, the playground and the amphitheater would be centralized.

These are a few aspects of the draft design guidelines that consultants have put together after listening to community members at public workshops and reviewing comments residents have submitted.

``I think we've generated what the council had hoped, and that's a lot of interest and participation,'' said Deputy City Manager Deb Symmonds said. ``I think it's been going really well.''

The guidelines will be reviewed and further refined at the third of three public workshops to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11, in the library at Islander Middle School, 8225 S.E.. 72nd St.

Other ideas included in the draft guidelines are revitalization of the docks and swimming areas, expanded tennis court usability, expanding activities available for kids and maintaining and improving the existing sports meadow. To check out the draft guidelines and a funding options exercise completed at the second workshop, go to the Web site www.ci.mercer-island.wa.us/makeityourpark and click on ``Workshop 2'' on the lefthand side of the screen.

City staff and the consultants with Norton Arnold are working to compile all responses received so far and those that come in during the next few weeks into a report for the City Council. The report is tentatively scheduled to be presented at the council meeting on Monday, Feb. 7.

In addition to the public workshops, staff members have visited community groups such as Rotary, Kiwanis, League of Women Voters and the Chamber of Commerce to gather opinions. Community members have also been mailing, e-mailing and phoning in their comments.

``I think we've used all of the tools that have been available to us,'' Symmonds said.

In the project public comment file at the city, 12 people said they were in favor of commercial development or some sort of revenue generation; 20 said they opposed any commercial development; and 16 made mixed comments such as that they didn't want a restaurant but that seasonal concession stands would be great, or that they didn't like the idea of a marina but would like to be able to rent paddleboats and small sailboats.

A handful of comments from people who did not sign their names are not included in these tallies.

Quite a few of those who wrote asked for projects such as erosion control, increased parking, improved trail systems, an updated playground, and snack or concession stands.

One individual suggested a facility on the waterfront that would generate revenue through hosting weddings, events, performances and meetings. Other ideas tossed out included a historical museum; a conservatory; a facility for artist education, music workshops and theater performances; and sand volleyball courts.

Most who said that they did not want any kind of restaurant or marina asked that the city continue to tax them to pay for the park.

Barbara Knopes wrote that she is not in favor of a marina or restaurant.

``I believe these would bring a mass of people and litter to the park, which would dilute the natural quiet and habitat that so many of us go to the park to enjoy,'' Knopes continued. ``Keep the park as natural and unbuilt as possible.''

A number of people sent letters stating that they ``strongly support'' some type of commercial development, such as a view restaurant, snack bar or overnight boat moorage.

Here's a sample of other written comments:

  • ``I believe it should be much as it is, but better cared for,'' Carolyn Boatsman wrote. She said she'd like to see increased maintenance of the trails, children's play area, restrooms, picnic tables, tennis courts and the beach area.
  • `` ... I would like to voice my support for development of some commercial space at the park -- in particular something down at the waterfront,'' Lisa Losh wrote.
  • ``I was walking through Central Park last weekend in NYC. I kept thinking how wonderful it was, but also tried to reflect on the treasure we have here and how, in many ways, it is even better,'' Tom Kinsman wrote. ``The thought also crossed my mind, `What if NYC wouldn't have had the vision to preserve their park?''
  • ``To get a kid's perspective of what the park needs, I asked my 9-year-old stepson for his thoughts on what should happen to the park,'' Sue Poulson wrote. ``He said, `The whole Island is turning into buildings, restaurants and apartments. I would like the park to stay the way it is.'''

How to comment to the City of Mercer Island regarding Luther Burbank Park

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