On Thursday night, the Friends of Esperance Park met with the Snohomish County parks staff to discuss potential plans for upgrading Esperance Park.
Esperance Park is located in unincorporated Edmonds, on 80th Avenue West between 224th Street Southwest and 222nd Street Southwest.
Based on previous meetings with the Friends of Esperance Park, the Snohomish County parks staff had determined that the community is most interested in preserving the current woodland, expanding the existing baseball diamond, adding an off-leash dog park, creating a functional parking area, and incorporating a community garden. The three concepts they presented to the Friends of Esperance Park all show these elements, with Concept 1 resulting from the fewest alterations and Concept 3 being the most radical change.
Although people present at the meeting were happy to see an off-leash dog park included on every concept, all were generally disappointed in the size.
“I’ve been to this park almost every day for 12 years, and it’s all dog people,” Mark Coleman, Edmonds resident and neighbor to the park, said.
Coleman also said that in previous conversations with the county, discussions included the possibility of expanding the off-leash area into the woods, allowing the dogs to explore and chase each other around the trees and serving to keep the “riff raff” out of the wooded area. Concept 3 is the only one to expand the off-leash area into the woods, but it’s a fairly narrow pathway compared to a wider zone where dogs could chase each other around the trees.
Cliff Sanderlin, of southwest Edmonds, recalled dog owners fighting for an off-leash area when Hickman Park was being redone. He said that it was dog owners that pushed the city to buy property from the school district and that ultimately the city opted for a full sports field instead.
“The dog people got totally shut out,” he said. “Those of us that worked on this put in hundreds of hours and we got totally shut out.”
“With Esperance Park, we will continue to be the most vocal element you have,” Coleman said in agreement.
(Following the meeting, Sanderlin said that he does enjoy Hickman Park for what it is, he just thinks that the park could have been so much more.)
Also present at the meeting were proponents of the non-profit organization Farmer Frog. Farmer Frog works primarily with schools but also with some other local spaces to grow food in a community-based setting to provide fresh food to individuals living in food deserts. A food desert is any area where residents need to travel more than one mile to have access to fresh produce.
Although there are many locations that Farmer Frog works with, the organization is currently searching for a space that they can call their headquarters. Being close to public transportation, accessible to the community and also in the convenient beginning stages of renovation, the organization is interested in building their headquarters at Esperance Park.
According to Zsofia Pasztor, member of the board of directors of Farmer Frog, they would need at least two of the park’s nine acres to build the hoop houses, green houses, blueberry patch and community food forest that Farmer Frog would like to incorporate into the headquarters.
While people present at the meeting were supportive of the mission of Farmer Frog, there was some hesitation with allowing their headquarters onto the park. At this point, it has not been ruled out or guaranteed.
“As county parks, we really want to maintain connectivity with the local citizens, make sure this stays the heart of the community and a gathering spot,” Parks Director Tom Teigen said.
With regard to the existing baseball field, Teigen said that it is important to expand the outfield to at least 200 feet, the current outfield minimum for Little League, in order to make it marketable to local Little League teams. Youth soccer teams can also use the outfield space if it is big enough. Team use of the field is a source of revenue for the park and can contribute to its upkeep.
Teigen said that this field will probably not ever be used for games, but could be good for practices.
The parking lot that currently exists with the park is disorganized, but the size of it works for the size of the park. Without any planters or islands, Chris Mueller, parks planner, estimates that approximately 40 spots will fit. Concepts 1 and 2 use the existing parking lot with a few improvements, while Concept 3 shifts it slightly to the west.
None of the concepts have proposed a public restroom. Mueller said that this is typical for a park of this size, as the costs for installation and maintenance of a park restroom are high.
Although the drawings presented show a fair amount of detail, Mueller emphasized that they are preliminary and serve to start the discussion.
“I don’t want folks to think that these are the only things we are thinking about putting in the parks,” he said.
Teigen said that, as the director, he is keenly aware of the cost of these projects and it is important to keep this in mind during these discussions.
“I don’t want to preordain any choices,” he said, “but I also want to be realistic because you all are passionate.”
The county plans to host another meeting in April regarding the planning of this park.
— Story and photos by Natalie Covate