Group advocates for more open spaces, park land

December 9, 2008

By Jim Feehan

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A group dedicated to preserving open space, parks and trails in Newcastle said the city should

 purchase the School Woods property near Lake Boren Park.

Monica Erickson, of the Newcastle Open Space Project, said the city has the lowest parks acreage to resident ratio of any city in the area. 

“We’re well below the national average and the surrounding cities of Renton and Bellevue,” she said, citing figures from the Trust for Public Lands.

The city has 4.7 acres of parks acreage per 1,000 residents, compared to Renton’s 12.7 and Bellevue’s 21.2.

“We need to obtain land somewhere and leave it as open space,” she said.

A possible site could be the School Woods property, a 10-acre wooded tract near Lake Boren Park owned by the Renton School District, she said.

Last year, district officials said they would sell the property. But at a board meeting this summer, they said they would hold onto the property for a year or two, until the market improved. At that meeting, Renton School Board member David Merill said Newcastle officials should buy the parcel for a park. 

“I walk that area regularly,” said Erickson, who lives in the Olympus neighborhood near School Woods. “Preserving open space for generations to come is my passion.”

Bobcats, deer, coyotes, hawks, raccoons, squirrels and several species of birds have been spotted at School Woods, she said.

“The School Woods property is a vital connecting piece that serves as a corridor for animals traveling through the area,” she said.

Troy Hopwood, also of the Newcastle Open Space Project, said he was surprised to find a lack of open space and park land in Newcastle.

“It’s all privately owned and subject to the landowner’s discretion,” said Hopwood, a program manager at Microsoft.

As a young boy growing up in Bellevue’s Somerset neighborhood, he enjoyed walking the trails through present-day Newcastle.

“If we lose these open spaces to developers, we’ll never have them again,” he said. “If you build houses, the houses are there forever. You never get the forest back.”

Garry Kampen, president of Newcastle Trails, a nonprofit organization focused on preservation, expansion and maintenance of trails in the city, applauded the efforts of the Newcastle Open Space Project.

“Saving parks and trails is important to citizens of Newcastle,” he said.

Erickson said the city is at a pivotal juncture in deciding its future.

“Would you rather have a city with more development and pavement? Or a city with sidewalks and trails?” she asked. “I’d rather be able to walk in the woods.”

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