The City of Ellensburg’s $2.6 million Reed Park master plan has been sent back to the Parks and Recreation Commission following public comment against the proposal during the City Council meeting Marchy 6.
At the meeting, the city weighed the final proposal for overhauling the park, “Plan D,” for implementation. The city council’s chambers was filled with residents listening to and giving feedback of the proposal.
The plan was returned to the Parks and Recreation commission following an outcry by members of the community and a large number of veterans and members of the American Legion.
The primary concern from American Legion members and affiliates stemmed from changes to the parking spaces at Reed Park.
“Anytime you have a park planning project, you’re going to have user groups that are interested in ... preserving what they’ve had,” said City of Ellensburg Parks and Recreation Director Brad Case. “Going in and making changes to the parking configurations and ... where parking is going to be located is, it’s changed. So, there’s always a level of concern.”
Reed Park has a been a city park facility since 1933. Residents’ passions surrounding the park are high due to the park’s famous views atop historic Craig’s Hill.
Plans for renovating Reed Park first began at a City Council meeting on Sept. 8, 2020, when park neighbors raised concerns about traffic volume and pedestrian safety.
The following month, the City’s Parks and Recreation commission passed a motion recommending the City Council make physical changes to Reed Park.
According to Case, this was the first time the city has done a major overhaul on an existing park in recent memory.
Plan D’s purpose was to provide upgrades to the park’s parking and access to the overlook, while still being able to support activities at the American Legion or overnight camping which takes place during the fair or Ellensburg Rodeo weekend, Case said.
“The goal was to create ... a more pedestrian friendly park while still maintaining ... the elements and the essence of what Reed Park has been,” said Case.
The plan would have added more green spaces and formal areas for people to congregate, Case said.
Case says community members have used parking at Reed Park “creatively, in terms of how they’ve been able to park in the past.” While Plan D would have added more parking spaces, it would have eliminated the creative use of parking at the park facility.
“We have many people up there that are elderly, we cannot walk a long distance,” said resident Marilyn Rost at the March 6 meeting. “People come from ... all over to come to meetings at (The American Legion). They spend the night at our hotels, eat at our restaurants. You take away the parking, that is tourism for our valley.”
American Legion Post Commander Joe Hill said the Legion uses all available parking for meetings and taking the parking spots away would “ eventually kill the post.”
“We are the only post in Kittitas County that has a lounge and is large enough to hold the meetings and other functions that we have,” Hill said.
The city council also heard complaints from community members not affiliated with the American Legion.
Community member Sarah Gann criticized the sample base for the poll conducted by the city to determine what direction to move with Reed Park’s overhaul. She also criticized the $2.6 million price tag and necessity of the project.
“It feels like this is a $2 million project where we are basically building a really nice front lawn and private park for just (neighbors of Reed Park),” said Gann.
The total budgeted amount for the project was $2,613,400, according to the Executive Assistant to the City Manager Cyndi LaChappelle-Mathis.
Case responded to this criticism saying the survey sent out to the community had close to 300 responses and that there are more than 300 neighbors of Reed Park.
“I’m not gonna say that it doesn’t benefit the neighbors that live by. I would hope that every park facility benefits neighbors that live by,” said Case. “But we are certainly not designing and planning the parts specific to the neighbor’s needs.”
With the park renovation plans placed on hold, Case says the city will look at how they can “creatively change things up while still trying to meet the goals of the park planning process, but at the same time, try to provide adequate parking for the events that take place up there.”
Case could not provide a date for when a new park plan will be presented to the city, saying “We want to move something forward, but not at the expense of moving forward a plan or a project that isn’t going to serve the community for the next nine years.”