Public takes virtual podium regarding parks and open space plan — and next week’s council meeting will be in person

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Angie Feser — bottom row, left – introduces the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan to the council prior to Tuesday’s public hearing.

Edmonds residents had their say on the Edmonds Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROs) Plan and two proposed public art projects during Monday night’s city council business meeting. The council also agreed to return to hybrid council meetings next week, with both councilmembers and the public having the option of participating in the council chambers or via Zoom.

Artist Clark Wiegman, upper right, discusses the design for the Civic Park public art project.

The first two public hearings focused on two proposed city art projects. (You can learn more about the projects in our previous story here.) Both artists — Jennifer Kuhns, who will be creating a Floretum Garden Club-commissioned mosaic piece next to the Public Safety Complex and Clark Wiegman, who is designing an art installation for Civic Park –were present to answer questions about their proposals. Councilmember Will Chen, who lives in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood, asked how the Floretum art installation’s location was chosen, and city Arts and Culture Manager Frances Chapin replied that the garden club specifically requested a downtown spot for the artwork. In response, Chen said he hoped that future public art projects could be placed in other parts of Edmonds.

Regarding the PROS plan, it is a six-year guide for managing city’s parks, open space, trails and recreation opportunities and staff have been working diligently to update it. PROS plan key recommendations included the following:

– Acquistions to fill gaps and for conservation: Secure additional parkland in south and southeast Edmonds, and pursue acquisitions that adjoin city properties or conserve unique natural areas (for example, wetlands, forests and stream corridors).

– Parks development and upgrades: These include playground replacements at Maplewood Hill Park, Sierra Park and Yost Park and addition of amenities to Mathay Ballinger Park, Elm Street Park and Pine Street Park.

– Acquiring easements and rights-of-way for trail and bikeway connections.

– Refining options for replacement of Yost Pool.

– Removing barriers and improve universal access to and within parks, natural areas and trails.

– Upgrading or replacing restroooms; improving signage and wayfinding.

The playground at Mathay Ballinger Park. (Photo courtesy City of Edmonds)

Tuesday night’s staff report to the council noted that citizens were engaged in a variety of ways as the plan was developed. The Edmonds Planning Board also had an opportunity to review and offer its recommendations. As a result, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Angie Feser stressed that even more input has been gathered since the draft plan was released, and that has led to several changes. Among them:

– A new goal and set of objectives were inserted related to climate change and the environment.

– The goal and objectives related to diversity, equity and inclusion were expanded and clarified.

– Content was added to emphasize the role of community partners and stewards.

– There was information added regarding the Underwater Dive Park, the Edmonds Library, the Cascadia Art Museum and the Edmonds Marsh.

Some of these new priorities were reflected in citizens’ comments received during the public hearing Tuesday night. (Due to a full agenda, the council took an hour of comments, then continued the hearing to next week’s March 22 business meeting.) Several commenters talked about the importance of ensuring that the PROs plan focuses on protecting and enhancing the Edmonds Marsh — and that includes ensuring that the city will be able to purchase the nearby Unocal property, now undergoing remediation, when it becomes available. Bill Derry from the Pilchuck Audubon Society said the PROS plan shouldn’t be pitting active recreation projects  like parks against environmental and open space projects like the marsh, which include salmon recovery and estuary restoration. “This conflict is unnecessary because these projects can be funded with different sources of money,” he said.

In contrast, Lake Ballinger neighborhood resident Natalie Seitz pointed out that Edmonds Marsh was ranked low as a priority by those participating in online and mail PROS plan surveys. In addition, when asked what three areas of Edmonds should take priority for open space acquisition, 81% of those surveyed during a community meeting prioritized Highway 99 and southeast Edmonds, and 15% prioritized downtown.

“The lobbying you are hearing tonight is not inclusive and not representative,” Seitz said. “I would say that the city is prioritizing fish above the health outcomes of its residents, except for Lake Ballinger is the only fresh-water body in the city that is accessible to chinook (salmon), exceeding the fish resources of any other streams on the western side of the city.”

There was also a plea from several commenters that the city, as part of its PROs plan, prioritize the acquisition of South County Park, which is located in Edmonds but is owned — and some say not adequately maintained — by Snohomish County. And the Friends of the Edmonds Library president weighed in to ask that the plan include removal of the obsolete book drop in front of the library.

More PROS plan comments will be taken — in person or online — when the public hearing is continued during the March 22 council meeting.

And speaking of next week’s meeting, the council heard a report from Adminstrative Services Director Dave Turley that staff is ready on the technology side to support the council’s return to hybrid in-person/remote gatherings. Hearing that, councilmember voted unanimously to support going to the hybrid format for business meetings, and also agreed that the meetings would comply with any state or county health guidelines that are in place at the time, including masking, distancing and vaccinations. (None of those requirements will apply next week, based on current state and county COVID-19 guidance.) Still to be determined are the policies for executive sessions and also for council committee meetings, which are held on the second Tuesday of each month.

The council also:

— Approved a request from Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett that the two new assistant chiefs she is hiring receive, as part of their hiring packages, a “frontloaded” 80 hours of vacation leave and 40 hours of sick leave.

– Voted to carry forward to 2022 budget packages that were unspent in 2022.

An item related to reinstating the city’s citizens salary commission was postponed due to lack of time.

— By Teresa Wippel

 

 

  1. Thank you for all the topics and comments regarding parks and open spaces. It is useful to absorb the information quietly and process what makes the most sense. Resolve what is most important for the environment and majority and represents the community.
    From what I have heard in previous meetings, there is a definite need to address the function of the wetlands for their environmental aspects and value. The longer it is put on `hold’ it will only become a more expensive problem taking more time. If the water that occurs in the wetland is compromised by pollution it is logical that the best and most economic method should be considered. There are fewer areas for salmon to spawn and now is the time to define the issue and move forward. This deserves reasonable consideration.

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