Beyond the Backyard

Scott Gallacher

Progress in Near and Distant Projects

We had a successful first committee meeting in August to plan the new Gateway Park playground. Those in attendance were asked to look through various vendor catalogues and highlight playground components they would like to see at the new park. There were many great ideas suggested and some consistencies in the committee members’desires.

As you may recall from the July 2015 Key Peninsula News article, Key Pen Parks learned earlier this year that we were awarded a $500,000 matching grant for Gateway Park development as part of the state legislature’s 2015-17 capital budget. This unexpected money will now allow us to jump start the Phase 1 plans of the project, including the design and construction of a new destination playground.

Immediately following the first committee meeting, I submitted the feedback and ideas to several playground vendors with the request that they use the information to draw up sample playground plans.

We anticipate receiving these drawings in the first week of October. Shortly thereafter, these drawings will be available for viewing by the general public. We will also open an online voting platform for the public to choose their favorite layouts, keeping in mind that the final design will remain fluid. If all goes well with permitting and any unplanned delays are avoided, we could see a playground as early as summer 2017.

When so much of the time of running a park district is spent in laying foundations for future projects, it is energizing to work on something so close to being tangible.

Another project still in a lengthy foundation laying phase but which recently had some activity is Key Central Forest. Similarly to 360 Trails, the 480-acre Key Central Forest is managed by Key Pen Parks through a 50-year lease from the property owner, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It is located north of Key Center and Vaughn between Wright Bliss Road and Key Peninsula Highway North.

Last month, DNR acted on a federal mandate to remove some culverts that existed on this property in an effort to enhance the salmon habitat in Vaughn Creek, which runs through Key Central Forest. We partnered with DNR and granted them access to the property via an easement through an adjacent Key Pen Parks-owned parcel off Wright Bliss Road in exchange for DNR clearing enough trees and bulldozing land to form a forest access road. They will sell the felled trees –– about 15 acres worth in total –– to pay for the clearing of our property.

This new road, although rough, is one of the first stages of laying the foundation for the future public access and development of Key Central Forest. For now; however, the road will give Key Pen Parks the ability to maintain this property on both sides of Vaughn Creek for the foreseeable future.

It is partnerships like this one with DNR, as well as the generous involvement of our community members, which help Key Pen Parks leverage resources so we can continue to build for the recreation future of the Key Peninsula.