‘A fantastic day’ as ribbon cut for Esperance Park improvements

Snohomish County Surrounded by neighbors and elected officials, Snohomish County Council member Stephanie Wright, center, cuts the ribbon to celebrate what's to come for Esperance Park.
Surrounded by neighbors and elected officials, Snohomish County District 3 Councilmember Stephanie Wright, center, cuts the ribbon to celebrate what’s to come for Esperance Park. To her immediate right are Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and District 4 Councilmember Terry Ryan. (Photos by Teresa Wippel)

“This is fantastic day and it’s been a long time coming,” said Tom Teigen, Snohomish County Parks and Recreation Director, as he welcomed a group of citizens, elected officials and a number of four-legged constituents to Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for Esperance Park improvements.

County Executive Dave Somers speaks as County Parks Director Tom Teigen looks on.
County Executive Dave Somers speaks as County Parks Director Tom Teigen looks on.

The site of the former Esperance Elementary School, Snohomish County paid the Edmonds School District $1.95 million for the 3.34 acres in the unincorporated pocket of Esperance, at 80th Avenue West and 224th Street Southwest.

Teigen pointed to the work of Snohomish County Councilmember Stephanie Wright and then-Councilmember and current County Executive Dave Somers, who in 2013 prioritized acquiring the property as part of a County Conservation Futures bond. That bond provided $1.1 million and the county was able to find an additional $800,000 to complete the purchase, Teigen said.

County Councilmember Stephanie Wright
County Councilmember Stephanie Wright

“What a beautiful addition to our parks system, what a great addition to your community and a gift for the future,” Somers told the crowd. “We don’t have opportunities like this very often. I’m really happy and proud we could be part of this.”

A total of 6.2 acres of the 9.6-acre property were declared surplus in the late 1980s and slated to be sold for housing development. But thanks to the efforts of a community activist group, the Action Council for Esperance (ACE), the county instead acquired the site for a community park.

However, with the exception of a few benches and picnic tables, a play structure, a volleyball court, and a 2009 upgrade to the baseball field, the park has remained largely unimproved since that time. While it is enjoyed by many for sports, dog walks, a playground and other outdoor activities, use of the park has been limited by the lack of parking and other amenities.

After several years of discussion and negotiation, and thanks to Conservation Futures funding, a $500,000 grant from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office, and several other sources, on Jan. 28 the county closed a deal with the school district to purchase the remaining acreage.

The park's newly paved parking lot.
The park’s newly paved parking lot.

The additional property been newly paved for parking, an important component given Little League baseball games and other activities occurring at the park, Teigen said.

Since 2014, in anticipation of the purchase, the county has worked with stakeholders and the public to gather input and ideas for park improvement. Suggestions include accessible walking paths, an off-leash dog area, a pea patch community garden, expanded playground and parking areas, woodland trails, native landscaping and more.

Stephanie Harris
Stephanie Harris

Wright acknowledged the efforts of long-time Esperance resident Stephanie Harris, who approached Wright shortly after she was elected to the council and urged her to prioritize the park project. “She was passionate so I came out here one fall afternoon and we met at her house,” Wright said. “She had a vision about what this really could be. Pea patches, dog park expansion, playground equipment. That is what really sparked me getting involved.”

“This could be 28 condos infringing upon the park but instead it’s an addition that allows us to expand and do so much more here,” Wright added. “We have made our park whole.”

Friends of Esperance founder John Briney with County Parks Planner Thomas Hartzell.
Friends of Esperance founder John Briney, left, discusses park planning with County Parks’ planner Thomas Hartzell.

Another citizen who was lauded for his work was Esperance resident John Briney, who not only lobbied the school district to maintain the green space, but also created the Friends of Esperance email group that coordinates twice-yearly park cleanups. Anyone interested in assisting with park volunteer activities can email Briney at esperance.park@gmail.com.

Councilmember Terry Ryan
Councilmember Terry Ryan

Another elected official who spoke Saturday morning was County Councilmember Terry Ryan from Wright’s neighboring 4th District, which includes Mountlake Terrace and Brier. Ryan’s experience as a Realtor provided valuable expertise during the property acquisition process, Teigen said.

Teigen also thanked State Sen. Maralyn Chase (D-32nd District) for her work in securing the Recreation and Conservation Office grant. Chase, attending the ceremony with her grandson Chase Simerka, noted that the family often brings their dogs to the Esperance off-leash park.

Chase xxx
Chase Simerka, grandson of State Sen. Maralyn Chase, with the family dog.

A meeting has been scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10 to discuss the master plan and next steps for the park. The meeting will be at Rock of Hope Baptist Church-South Campus, 7812 224th St. S.W., Edmonds.

More information is available at the project website and at the Esperance Park homepage.

 

  1. Not to take away from the opening of Esperance Park, but does anyone know why Chase Lake is closed? I noticed last week that the gate to the parking lot has been shut.

  2. Bill – I’ve noticed that too. I’ve only seen the gate open once in the past 3 weeks. I’d love to know why the gate is closed.

    1. Tom Teigen, Snohomish County Parks Director, shed some light. Turns out that the Chase Lake site is actually a public works site used as a biofilter rather than an official park, but that neighbors do use it for walking, etc. However, there have been what he called “nefarious” activities in the area so a gate was installed with a combination lock. The neighbors are able to open the lock to access the area for their use, but have decided to keep the gate locked to prevent unwanted activities. –Teresa

  3. With the dock and boardwalk, Chase Lake certainly looks like an official park to me. I am a little taken back that the neighbors are granted access to this county owned property for their use while the rest of us are excluded.

  4. There is a (1) gravel spot if you pull just past the gate. There’s also access from church property up on 220th if you hang a right and drive around; there are signs warning against loitering and skateboarding and that sort of thing but nothing about trespassing, so I don’t think they mind. There’s no lock on the gate that leads to the park, er, “public works site”.

    I’d be really curious what sort of “nefarious activities” were going on in there.

  5. Concerning locking Chase Lake, the people going in to take part in “nefarious activities” are still going to get in by hoping the fence. The people who use it as a park to walk or just enjoy nature are being shut out. I agree with Bill Anderson that granting neighbors access but not others in the neighborhood doesn’t sit right since this is a county and not a private property.

    Anyway, I’m excited about Esperance, I just hope that something is done to clean up or clear out the woods a bit so I don’t continually stumble upon teens smoking, drinking and engaging in other activities in there, leaving behind broken glass, paraphernalia and used things I’d rather not step on. Kudos to the county and the school district for keeping this a green space!

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