BOTHELL — One way or another, Bothell’s new 89-acre park will recognize the area’s history. It’s just a matter of how far back and the intended meaning.
A new park presents a new opportunity for a name with thought and context. The Bothell City Council will have its first opportunity to weigh in on the former golf course’s next moniker — Redfish Park/Bothell Redfish Park/Redfish Regional Park, Lushootseed Park, Willow Peoples Park, or OneBothell Park — at its Tuesday meeting.
Under city ownership since the end of 2017, the park is open to visitors. By size, it tops the chart of 18 city parks for the 44,500 residents. The fairways, greens and hazards are more than twice the area available at the nearby 40-acre Blyth Park.
“It is by far our largest park,” said Bothell Interim Parks & Recreation Director Tracey Perkosky.
At this point, the property is also a blank slate.
Working with King County and Forterra, a nonprofit dedicated to securing land for a sustainable future, the city acquired the property over the past two years. By the end of 2017, Bothell paid $3.8 million, $1 million of which came from the state’s capital budget, for the land (technically the underlying fee). King County paid for conservation easements, essentially the housing rights that previously existed on the property, for $4.6 million. Another five acres for a conservation easement are being negotiated, but Perkosky said she did not expect any problems to procure it by the end of 2018.
All of that money has bought essentially a disused golf course brimming with possibilities. Visitors won’t find many frills beyond a parking lot near the old clubhouse, some walking and biking trails, the Sammamish River splitting the greens, bald eagles that roost there and plenty of natural splendor.
As part of the deal with Forterra, the city agreed to deed restrictions. That means housing, manufacturing and industrial uses will not locate there. Motorized sports aren’t coming to the vast majority of the park any time soon, either.
“We have agreed to maintain the park in perpetuity,” Perkosky said. “This is our commitment to the community: that the park will remain forever.”
Taking on such a big commitment has limited estimates for the cost of annual maintenance, Councilman James McNeal said. That could grow in the coming years. The city is preparing its 2018-19 budget and will include creating a master plan for the park. That should be a yearlong process to identify potential development— trails, restrooms, amphitheaters, disc golf, etc. — as determined by public input.
“The uses, to me from what I’ve heard, are plentiful,” McNeal said. “We have not nailed it down yet.”
Bothell City Councilwoman Rosemary McAuliffe said the city wants people to have a voice in naming the park and how it is designed.
Bothell has seen population and development growth. As that happens, finding ways to keep nature in place becomes important, McAuliffe said.
“As our communities are growing and building and our housing industry is good as is our growth in population, preserving this park is a privilege.”
Another 15 to 20 years are needed, Perkosky said, to implement the plan as the city finds money to pay for and complete the work. The nature of the park likely will limit what can be done. It’s often soggy, with seven wetlands identified, plus a creek and the river running through it.
That’s one of the reasons the former course struggled; it would close during winter months because several holes were too waterlogged for golf.
People (and their pups) can walk, mountain bike, picnic, play football or knock a soccer ball around, and all the other normal uses open spaces afford, even if they are just seasonal.
“When we had snow at the holidays it was fantastic seeing people sledding,” Perkosky said.
Anyone hoping to hop back out there and work on their short game for free, however, is out of luck.
“Nature is taking its course,” Perkosky said of the former putting greens.
One group would like to see nature as a featured part of the park’s new name. Whitney Neugebauer, with Bothell-based nonprofit Whale Scout, is among the supporters of calling it “Redfish Park” after the kokanee that historically flooded its waterways decades ago.
“Giving the park the name ‘Redfish Park’ honors the native history of the Sammamish River and the natural abundance that originally brought people to this special place,” Neugebauer said in a news release. Historical accounts tell of Native Americans feasting upon kokanee salmon when they first settled the Bothell area.
Also supporting the fishy name was University of Washington Bothell professor Jeff Jensen. He is leading the charge to save the fish species in nearby Lake Washington.
Choosing a name is likely to take more time and involve more input and feedback than the upcoming April 3 City Council meeting.
“Why rush it?” McNeal said. “Why not take our time and get something the entire community can get engaged in? Once you name it, it’s named.”
While there will be meaning and intention behind whatever the City Council selects as its name, the spirit of the park will be the same: a place for anyone to go and be in nature.