The 150 acres surrounding LBA Park in Olympia is the last large forested area within Olympia and its Urban Growth Area not already a park. The owners of the two parcels have expressed their willingness to sell, but unless the City of Olympia acts quickly to secure the woods, the developments planned for those parcels will proceed.
The LBA Woods Park Coalition has gathered over 5,200 signatures of area residents asking the Olympia City Council to purchase the woods for a park before these woods are lost to housing developments. The City’s Parks, Recreation, and Arts Advisory Committee voted to move forward to study the feasibility of purchasing the parcel as a city park.
LBA Woods are a true gem--an old-fashioned Commons of sorts in that the property is privately owned, though it is neither gated nor posted with no-trespassing signs or welcome signs. I believe many who visit the woods believe it is part of LBA Park. The community takes care of the woods and allows for multiple uses.
The woods have more than 4 miles of wooded trails through varied terrains, including mature conifer forest (a dozen or so trees over 36 inches diameter) and alder groves. Hundreds of people walk and run there. It is especially popular for walking dogs, and the gentle slope trails are accessible to seniors. Black Hills Audubon birders have identified fifty-eight bird species in the woods, including twenty-one species recently identified by the National Audubon Society as at-risk from climate change. The woods provide critical habitat--a refugia--for birds and wildlife that residents enjoy seeing in their yards and streets.
A significant body of new scientific research has shown that walking in larger forest parcels provides a number of surprising health benefits. Those benefits include: immune system boost, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, improved mood; increased ability to focus (even in children with ADHD), accelerated recovery from surgery or illness, increased energy level, improved sleep.
The demand for open space forest trails will nearly double in the next 20 years. Over that period, Olympia’s population is projected to increase 20,000 and Thurston County’s by 120,000. This begs the question, if Olympia does not act now to secure the woods, where will the children play? How will we address the nature-deficit disorder that will increasingly undermine our physical and mental health.
Funds exist to purchase the parcels. In 2004, City residents approved the “voted utility tax” to raise about $2 million a year for parks until 2024. The voters’ pamphlet and the City mailer stated that the tax-generated park funds would be prioritized for park acquisition before the remaining lands are lost, and estimated the funds would acquire about 500 acres, mostly open space. To date, the City has acquired only 51 acres.
The City can use the park acquisition funds from the voted utility tax to finance purchase one of the 75-acre parcels ("Bentridge"), which is currently on the market for $6.5 million. As Jane Kirkemo, the City Finance Director, has explained, the City could issue a bond anticipation note now to pay for the parcel, and pay off that note in 2016 when it sells a new round of general obligation bonds that would in turn be paid off using the voted utility tax revenues.
If the City supplements its bond funds supported by the utility tax with funds from other sources such as County conservation futures and state grant programs, the City would likely be able to purchase Trillium also by 2016.
The Save the LBA Woods effort is not about neighbors protecting 150 acres of woodland for their own private nature sanctuary. The LBA Woods Park Coalition has suggested creating a multi-use City Park, with the flat areas (now "old-growth" Scotsbroom) developed as much-needed soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, to complement the existing network of walking trails and dense woods.
Supporters of LBA Woods successfully lobbied the City Council to fund a suitability study of the property for use as a park. The 90-day study of teh LBA Woods and three other parcels . Shortly after the study is released in November, it is expected that the City Council will make a decision whether to proceed to buy either of the two LBA parcels.
If you want to help save the LBA woods and create LBA Woods Park, please write the City Council at email@example.com .
For more information or to sign the LBA Woods Park petition or to donate, please go to LBAWoodsPark.org .
This article has been provided by the LBA Woods Coalition, which I support, and tweaked by me.