EVERETT — A high rope walk among the cedar and fir trees at Forest Park could become a feature for the city’s sprawling hilltop property. But it would cost you.
It’s part of a suite of proposals for private investment or management and use of city-owned properties that first started last year with a request for proposals. City staff is scheduled to brief the Everett City Council about the fledgling public-private partnership program during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
In December, the Everett City Council approved the first contract for such a public-private partnership with lease of five nursery buildings at Legion Memorial Park. The renewable one-year agreement with Redmond-based T&L Nursery, a wholesale plant grower, is worth $18,000 per year for the city, plus maintenance and utility costs.
City leaders are hopeful that similarly some of the hundreds of acres of park land can become profitable through partnerships. With unused space leased, it saves the city maintenance and utility costs while potentially bolstering revenue.
This time last year, Legion Memorial Park’s plant-growing facilities housed hundreds of potted flower plants awaiting spring to be planted across the city. But by March 23, the pandemic prompted the state to issue a stay-home order and restrict work to “essential” purposes.
Expecting a swift hit to the budget through dramatically less tax revenue from retail sales, the mayor and council laid off dozens of employees. That included the only horticulturalist on staff, as well as seasonal employees responsible for the city’s “color” program that hung flower baskets around downtown and lined Mukilteo Boulevard at Forest Park with flowers.
“We weren’t necessarily looking to lease out the greenhouses at Legion Memorial Park,” said parks director Bob Leonard. “The greenhouses are vacant, so it was an underutilized space.”
The Downtown Everett Association later bought and displayed some of the surplus flowers, which city leaders hope the business district will continue.
With the nursery lease in place, not much will change for people visiting Legion Memorial Park. They couldn’t walk through the plant growing facilities before because it was an active workplace, and they won’t be able to meander there now that T&L leases it.
T&L was approached to supply plants for a large U.S. retailer, but a non-disclosure agreement prevented it from naming the company, according to the company’s lease proposal. The company planned to hire one full-time grower and nine part-time seasonal employees for the Everett operation.
“We simply needed extra space for some contract grow for one of our customers and some (research and development) work,” general manager Terry Berger said in an email.
“We have a direct savings immediately from the utilities that you’re not paying anymore,” said city procurement manager Theresa Bouccio-Teschlog.
Forest Park’s animal farm, exhibit halls, fields, a playground, splash pad, swim center and trails could one day be accompanied by rope-and-board suspension bridges. Oregon-based Synergo has proposed building one of its signature Adventure Parks, a ropes course for people to enjoy the thrill (or terror) of heights, with a challenge course for people seeking more difficulty and even higher ground. Climbers would be in harnesses and supported by a belay system as they move through the course.
A similar partnership exists between Snohomish County and High Trek Ventures for a ropes course at Paine Field Community Park that opened in 2017. Rent and taxes from the lease agreement with the Redmond-based company were projected to net the county $500,000 over 12 years.
“It’s actually been a really beneficial partnership and created really unique family entertainment,” said Snohomish County Parks, Recreation and Tourism spokesperson Rose Intveld. ”Especially during this year, the pandemic, High Trek has been a great opportunity to get people outside safely.”
Several other proposals are being negotiated for Everett facilities and parks, according to a city document. Also at Legion Memorial Park, Evergreen Arboretum is considering leasing the park’s arboretum and horticulture classroom.
YMCA of Snohomish County also proposed hosting summer camps at Thornton A. Sullivan Camp, which abuts Silver Lake.
Correction: This story has been modified to correct the last name of Snohomish County Parks, Recreation and Tourism spokesperson Rose Intveld.