Sammamish unveils plan for Big Rock Park
March 20, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: March 20, 2:15 p.m.
Ewoks would feel right at home in Big Rock Park if the city eventually builds the entire plan suggested by the Parks Commission – a plan that includes elevated walkways among the trees in one section.
Parks Director Jessi Bon presented the park’s proposed master plan to the City Council March 11.
The plan would provide guidelines for developing the bulk of the 51 acres of land north of Pine Lake, which Mary Pigott donated to Sammamish for use as parkland.
The land is split into three chunks, and the plan concerns development of two of those, known as sites A and B. The city already owns Site A. Site B will be donated at some time in the future.
If the city ultimately builds every part of the plans, it would cost an estimated $4.07 million, with annual maintenance costs of about $385,000, Bon said.
The plan reflects Pigott’s desire for the park to focus on passive uses – meaning no ball fields, in general. The plan also would include opportunities for environmental education.
Bon was quick to point out that the entire plan would not need to be built at once, but is designed to be phased in easily over time.
“We can take very small nibbles along the way, or we can take bigger bites,” Bon said.
Site A is about 16 acres south of Southeast Eighth Street and east of 218th Avenue Southeast. The plan there calls for putting in 30-40 parking spots along Southeast Eighth. It would also put in a two-lane road to access a house on the property, but Bon noted the road would not need to be put in until the city starts using the house.
The house itself would require some renovations to make it usable for city purposes, and even more renovations to give it a large enough space to be attractive for gatherings.
There would be a small parking lot near the house, and a larger open area that could be used for overflow parking there.
The plan calls for a “gathering circle” where Bon suggested groups might be able to congregate for environmental education lessons.
Several City Council members suggested the plan could allow fires in the gathering circle.
The plan also uses much of the extensive trail system that already stretches across the park. The city, however, would have to move some trails. Bon noted some of the trails are right on the property line, which is not something parks designers like to do for public parks.
There is also an existing barn on Site A, which the city is currently using for maintenance and storage. Bon said any future restrooms would be included in the barn.
The plan also calls for some places to have observation decks and picnic areas.
The city doesn’t yet own the 20.6-acre Site B, but is still making plans for it. The northwest corner of Site B touches the southeast corner of Site A, so a connection between the two areas is challenging and would need to be dealt with somehow.
The city hopes to have parking for a handful of cars at a detention pond Sammamish already owns in the Lancaster Ridge subdivision at the end of 221st Avenue Southeast.
Additional access will come off 220th Avenue Southeast, in the southwest portion of the park. There would also be a small parking lot there for about 10 cars.
The site would have a bird blind – an area where people can see birds without themselves being seen – an open meadow and a picnic shelter.
Bon said she does not plan to allow people to reserve the shelter, in order to keep large gatherings from happening there.
There are existing buildings at Site B; some would be re-purposed for public use, such as turning them into restrooms. Others have an unclear fate.
Site B also contains two significant attractions, the Reard House and the proposed elevated walkways.
The city has yet to develop final plans for the Reard House, which is owned by the Sammamish Heritage Society. There are considerations being made that it might host a small museum.
“Think small. Think some limited weekend hours,” Bon said, adding the house might be opened for school groups on an appointment-only basis.
The elevated walkways among the trees had drawn sharp criticism from the City Council in the past, owing to its $500,000 price tag, but it was still included in the proposed master plan.
Parks Commission Chairman Hank Klein urged the council to leave it in the plan. Just because it’s in the plan doesn’t mean it has to be built, he said. However, if the council later decides it might want to add in the feature, it would have to repeat the master plan process.
Klein said that including the walkway in the master plan would allow the city to keep its options open.
Councilmembers offered few comments about the proposal, although Councilwoman Nancy Whitten suggested finding a place to add a zip line. Others on the council generally supported Whitten’s idea, and Bon said she would investigate options and costs.
Councilwoman Kathleen Huckabay suggested that, instead of trying to retrofit existing buildings into public-use facilities, the city might consider tearing them down and building what they want, where they want.
The council will have a formal discussion about the proposed master plan, likely in April or May. After that, the council may adopt the plan, or a modified version of it.
The council would then have the option to fund construction of various portions of the plan during the normal budget process.
If the plan is approved, Bon hopes to begin designing the first part of the project in May, with construction to begin next spring.
She estimated the first phase could cost about $450,000 and would include things like the parking lot for Site A and some of the trail improvements.
On the Web
To see the powerpoint presentation with details of the plan, visit www.ci.sammamish.wa.us/files/document/12528.pdf.
To comment on the proposal, email firstname.lastname@example.org.