LAKE STEVENS — Homeowners in the Frontier Heights neighborhood recently voted to hand over a formerly private park to the city.
In an area where growth has been rapid and future park options are limited, the newest addition to the city’s inventory is an important one, parks director Jim Haugen said.
Frontier Heights Park has an aging playground, a popular basketball court, tennis court, and the remnants of ball fields where junior leagues used to play.
The city plans to put $180,000 toward improvements in the next year, and likely more in the future. Designs include a new playground, trail, picnic shelter, updated sports fields and paved parking.
The park, which sits partially under power lines off Frontier Circle, was built when homes there went up in the late 1960s. The development was low-income housing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Frontier Heights Homeowners Association was in charge of the park. Dues from members covered costs such as taxes, insurance and basic maintenance — mowing the lawn, filling potholes, trying to keep up with litter and pests. That could total $10,000 a year. There wasn’t enough money to make major improvements.
“The cost of maintaining the park was going up faster than we can raise dues,” said David Romano, president of the homeowners association.
“We could hardly even keep it clean,” added Alex Thole, a board member.
People were using the garbage cans for personal trash, or ignoring the cans and littering. Neighbors became concerned about drug activity. They hope to see police patrolling the park now that it is owned by the city.
Mike Jones, also on the HOA board, was a driving force behind getting the park signed over to Lake Stevens. It required a vote by homeowners. The association couldn’t get enough people to cast ballots in past attempts. This time, 212 of 267 ballots came back, according to city documents. All but 20 voted in favor of transferring the park to the city.
“We had to do a big door-knocking campaign,” Romano said.
There was some opposition. People worried about parking, and whether the city would do enough to improve the park.
Jones said that changes are needed, and the city has the money to make them.
The ball fields “are ankle twisters. You don’t want to walk out there,” he said. “I’ve been here going on 15, 16 years, and the park has remained unchanged. We were doing our best just to keep it mowed.”
Eventually, Haugen and the homeowners would like to see the park connected to trails, possibly along the power line corridor and linking to the Centennial Trail.
The city essentially “got a big chunk of land for nothing,” Haugen said, though leaders needed to commit money for improvements and maintenance. In Lake Stevens, developers are working just about every large, buildable property, and other areas are too wet or sloped for a public park with ball fields and a basketball court. An opportunity such as Frontier Heights doesn’t come along often, Haugen said.
Upgrading the park is one of several such projects underway in Lake Stevens. Others include: Cavelero, where there are designs for a new skate park, larger dog park and BMX track; Lundeen Park, where improvements continue after the addition of the visitor center in 2016; and North Cove, where planning is in progress to expand the lakefront park.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.