Ferndale neighbors team up, keep beloved park from being sold to developers

The City Council voted to kill a resolution that would have turned a neighborhood park into more homes after residents expressed concerns about misinformation the council had received.

City Council planned to vote Monday, Oct. 20, on a resolution that would have declared Horizon View Park, a small stretch of grass and trees in a cul-de-sac on Cascade Drive, a surplus property that could be sold to developers to build homes. The money would have been used to help fund the Star Park playground project and the remodeling of Pioneer Pavilion into a community center.

However, some council members said they were misled into believing the park was undeveloped. They voted 5-1 to reaffirm the Parks Master Plan in existence that recognizes the space as Horizon View Park, and did not vote on the proposed resolution to turn it into a surplus property. Cathy Watson was the only one to vote no, saying she didn’t understand what had changed since the council decided to consider the resolution.

At least a dozen residents who live near the park and came to the meeting were pleased with the decision.

“This seems to be a very special place for them,” said Councilman Jon Mutchler.

Darin Somers, a resident who lives next to the park, contacted 38 people from nearly as many homes, and 90 percent opposed the resolution to turn the land into more homes. The residents dropped off a petition opposing the resolution to the council prior to Monday’s meeting, he said.

Most residents were not informed of the proposed resolution until Oct. 16, and others were not notified at all, Somers said.

Notification letters were hand-delivered, but half of the neighborhood was overlooked and the ones who did receive the letter said it contained errant information, Somers said. It called the park an “undeveloped, open-space parcel,” and indicated that declaring the land a surplus to be sold was in accordance with the Parks Master Plan, which aims to create a better parks system for the whole city. However, the Parks Master Plan states that “a development master plan for the park was created and (Horizon View Park) was developed” after neighborhood meetings in 1998.

“That raised a really big red flag for me because it made me wonder just what the City Council had been led to believe,” Somers said.

Some council members said they were confused when they drove to the property and saw that it was, in fact, a park.

Councilman Keith Olson said the council was led to believe it was an “unused hunk of woods.”

Mayor Gary Jensen said the confusion about whether to call the park developed or undeveloped was simply a difference in opinion. The park has been maintained by the city and various trees have been planted, but there is no playground or other amenities that other parks may have.

Sharon Degrave, who lives in the park’s neighborhood, said people walk their dogs and children play frequently in the park.

“It gets as much use as any other park in the city,” she said.

Greg Young, city administrator, said they initially chose this land to declare as a surplus to be sold because it did not fit into the city’s parks plan. Young said the goal is to have larger, more centralized parks instead of small pocket parks like Horizon View. There were no trails to get to the park and only neighborhood residents could easily access it.

“We were looking at the greater need of the parks system,” Young said.

Even before they had a chance to speak at the meeting, the residents who attended were told they could keep their park.

“The lesson here is we have to communicate and reach out and find out what neighbors want,” Mutchler said.