Candidate for Key Pen Parks Commissioner Position 3:

John Kelly

The incumbent commissioner said he seeks to improve park access for all users.


John Patrick Kelly was a longtime Tacoma resident drawn to the Key Peninsula through the relationship with his wife. He met her in 2002 while still in Tacoma, and they were married in 2016. He moved to the KP in 2008. 

Kelly is a current member of the Key Pen Parks commission and described himself to the KP News as “the voice of the common Key Peninsula resident.” He said he is the only one representing the community as a whole and not just special interest groups, and that he will “stick up for any group that is not included.” He wants another term because there is “lots of work still to do.”

Kelly said he came from a “modest background,” that his father was a Navy sailor and that as a kid he was always outdoors. He expressed a particular interest in parks for those who want to “hike in the woods.”

“The more we interact with neighbors, the more we’ll care for our community,”

Kelly described the peninsula as a playground desert when he started on the park commission; Minter Creek Elementary School and Home Park were the only locations with playgrounds then. “As Americans, we are all landowners. Even as renters we have parks,” he said, adding that there is an advantage to participating in the community with education programs for kids to avoid problems like youth criminality. He said that “some troublemakers are homegrown,” and mentioned that vandalism has been a problem for the parks. 

“The more we interact with neighbors, the more we’ll care for our community,” he said, and parks should lead the way. 

Kelly said he wants to make parks inclusive and accessible. “Signage has increased usage,” he said, and wants the same kind of signage at Taylor Bay Park and Rocky Creek Conservation Area. He said that Maple Hollow Park has handicap accessibility but that the parking lot is blocked off part of the year, making it inaccessible for handicapped persons.

Kelly’s long-term goals include science and environmental education as well as physical fitness, especially at Taylor Bay. He wants to see a community center at Gateway Park and countered criticism of the cost: “It’s never going to get cheaper.” He would also like to see a basketball court at Gateway Park and a paved or concrete path for skateboarders and roller skaters.

Kelly described himself as a fiscal conservative who wants to get the most out of available funds. He said that community volunteers and organizations are a great source of support. As a member of the Lions Club, he said that the club is offering to fence off a portion of Gateway Park for an off-leash dog park. He opposes a horse corral at Gateway because the estimated cost of $300,000 “should be spent on kids and seniors rather than horses.” He is also concerned about bike trails at 360 Trails; he doesn’t want it to become like Banner Forest Park in Kitsap County, which he described as an example of bike trail excess. “I get very passionate about issues.”