City officials are hoping to open to the public the former site of the Ballinger Lake Golf Course as a passive park sometime in mid-August; the goal was a result of discussions at a City of Mountlake Terrace Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission (RPAC) meeting held at the Ballinger Lake Clubhouse on Tuesday.
“It would be nice to have it open before Labor Day,” said RPAC member Mika Harmon.
The RPAC met before an audience of about 30 local residents, in part to discuss more than three dozen ideas for the 42-acre site compiled at a public open house last month. Only a few of the ideas will actually be in place if Ballinger Lake Park is opened in August; “a lot of these ideas will take a long time to complete,” advised Parks and Facilities Superintendent Ken Courtmanch.
If opened in mid-August, the public would be allowed into the park for only “passive” activities such as hiking, bird watching or picnicking, said Assistant City Manager Curt Brees. “We have a very extensive list of ‘don’ts’,” he added. Some of the restrictions listed included a dawn-to-dusk operation, no fires, no feeding of wildlife, no alcohol, no motorized vehicles and no lake access. In addition, dogs must be kept on-leash, and park visitors would have to remove any garbage they generate.
Entrance into the new park would be limited to up to three access points where there are currently gates in the adjoining fence: at the Lake Ballinger Clubhouse, at the adjacent Ballinger Park Boat and Fishing Access, and at a gate near the northwest corner of the new park along the Interurban Trail.
The thought of opening up the new park earlier than mid-August was dismissed by RPAC members and by city officials. “I’m reluctant to say ‘yes, go ahead’ until we hear from the (Neighborhood Parks Improvement) Subcommittee (NPIS) and give them a chance at input,” said RPAC Chairperson Linda Rogers. The NPIS is made up of representative residents living within a half-mile of Ballinger Lake Park.
Brees advised that an opening of the park would be subject to current city code, so discussions with the city’s Planning Commission would be necessary. City Hall representatives will meet with the Planning Commission over the next few weeks, while the NPIS will be invited to attend the RPAC’s next scheduled meeting on Aug. 13. The park could be opened following that Aug. 13 meeting.
At its meeting this week, the RPAC categorized ideas for the site that could be implemented in the future. Suggestions ranged from specific additions to the park (picnic tables, barbecues, gazebos, restrooms, lake docks) to uses for maintaining the site (security cameras, goats for brush control). The most-heard ideas from the public were for trails and gardens through the 42-acre site.
City officials warned that some ideas may be difficult or even impossible to implement. While making beach access available was an idea mentioned at the June open house, much of the waterfront at the site is inaccessible due to brush. The foliage helps prevent shore erosion, said Mike Shaw, the city’s Storm Water Program Manager. There are also state shoreline management restrictions, wildlife habitat concerns, and a desire to limit beach access some for general safety issues.
Trails could take the form of wooden boardwalks, paths of gravel or wood chips, or simply moved pathways through unmowed grass and vegetation. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, city officials shared. For example, wooden boardwalks are expensive and could float away during seasonal flooding that occurs on the site.
The RPAC will continue discussing long range master planning for the new park at its August meeting. City officials also left open the possibility of hiring a consultant for long-term park planning sometime in the future.
— Story and photo by Doug Petrowski