Puget Sound Park’s future cloudy again: What we’ve found out so far

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Seven months ago, Puget Sound Park in White Center was reported to be in danger of being sold by King County for a housing project. A citizen outcry resulted in county promises that it would not be put up for sale. Now suddenly, its future appears to be in play again; we got a call this afternoon from Greg Duff of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, who’d worked hard to save the park last spring, saying he’d learned it might suddenly be on the brink of sale after all. We’ve been working since then to see what we could find out. Here’s what we know so far:

King County Parks won’t elaborate on exactly what is in the works. Jessie Israel, who’s returned to her parks division management job fulltime after a run for Seattle City Council, says they might have news next week – but for now, all she can say is: “We’re not selling a park – we’re looking for partners who will work with us to keep parks open to the public.” She said “several parks in North Highline and White Center” are being looked at in this regard; we asked repeatedly why the county would be looking at anything right now involving a park like Puget Sound Park that’s about to be turned over to the City of Burien, and Israel would only say “there are a good number of conversations that have started with the intent of keeping all White Center parks open. We are looking forward to working with Burien … our goal is really to figure out how to keep parks open to the public as public assets.”

“Working with Burien” did not seem to have been going on before we spoke with city manager Mike Martin earlier in the afternoon (after putting in the first call to King County Parks). He told us, “We don’t have a lot of information – what I know is that we have been told that the county intends to sell that property to a buyer, we don’t know who, we don’t know how firm that is.” He stressed that he too was still working to find out more, but what he’s heard so far indicated, “(The county) basically asked for anyone willing to buy the property to step forward … apparently they have a buyer. It would be nice to know (more). I am told they want to use some of the money, some would go to Burien, some of the money … to spread among some of the remaining (county) parks, for what purpose, I don’t know.”

Then he took on an even more grim tone: “I can tell you for certain that selling a five-acre park two and a half months before we’re supposed to annex, flies in the face of anything that might be interpreted as good public policy, or good for the North Highline residents … so what we’re doing is sending a letter to the County Council, and to (County Executive-elect) Dow (Constantine), asking what their intentions are.”

Martin went on to say that if he doesn’t get an assurance that the park is not about to be sold, Burien might push back the date when it actually officially annexes the “North Highline South” area. “At Monday’s Burien City Council meeting, we were to have set the date for annual annexation, March 2nd. Until we get clarity (regarding the park), I will recommend that we delay. It’s not something I recommend lightly, but I can’t make a proposal when I don’t know what the game is. I hope the county understands that if we have to delay annexation, it will cost them money” — in urban services they will have to provide longer than they planned.

Martin went on to reiterate that this turn of events is “a big deal.”

We also sent messages to Constantine and key staffers, but did not hear back from anyone; he had made the announcement last time that Puget Sound Park was off the table. He’s to be sworn in to his new job on Tuesday.

We’ll keep working to find out what’s happening and will report when there’s an update.


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