Mercer Island parks are irreplaceable, invaluable and serve to maintain the beauty, livability and sustainability of the Island. However, developers continue to target the open space in our parks as free, vacant land suitable for development. The current threat comes from the City Council's intention to lease a portion of Mercerdale Park to a new organization for the development of a private facility.
This immediate threat to Mercerdale Park is consistent with previously proposed and defeated City Council encroachments on Mercer Island parks and open spaces. Consider the following examples:
- a parking garage on the Kite Hill open space near the community center
- a golf course in Pioneer Park
- a restaurant and marina in Luther Burbank Park
- a housing development in Upper Luther Burbank Park (south of I-90)
- a civic center and fire station in Mercerdale Park
- City Hall in Mercerdale Park (rejected in a public vote)
Parks provide playgrounds, sports fields, wooded trails and an uncommon sense of nature. Parks improve air quality, mitigate global warming and provide habitat for wildlife. Mercer Island parks contribute to the economic value of Island properties. The City’s financial statement puts a historical value of $107 million (market value is considerably more) on our open space and parkland. CCMIP estimated the annual economic benefits of Mercer Island parks at $8.3 million. The transfer of public parkland to private hands deprives Mercer Islanders of their ability to not only enjoy that space in the future, but in certain instances, the City has a contingent financial liability if a development would fail.
The City’s Comprehensive Plan recognizes the vital importance of parks, concluding that “Open space (trees and green spaces) preservation continues to be a primary activity for attaining the community’s quality of life vision.” To ensure continuation of these benefits, the City Council needs to increase, not decrease, the number and size of parks. Once sold or leased, parkland is gone forever.
The Mercerdale Park site poses additional problems for private development. Foremost among these is parking. There is no on-site parking and increased traffic threatens the sense of neighborhood of the adjacent neighboring Mercerdale area (SE 34th Street). Further exacerbating the situation are the environmental issues concerning wetlands and seismic activity that such development portends. The proposed scale of the building would overwhelm the park and radically change the current passive, peaceful nature of this unique park to an urban development. If anything, there is a need for MORE parkland, not less! A recent short-term abridged notification by the City for comments on MICA’s SEPA submission elicited 30 responses during mid-August 2016, typically the slowest time of the year.
Together, Mercer Island parks provide a landmark distinction and pride for residents.