Opinion

Olympia has chance to save LBA Woods for a future park

Did you know that the last large wooded parcel in Olympia and its urban growth area, the 150 acre woods surrounding LBA Park, is about to disappear and be replaced by new developments? The city of Olympia’s and Thurston County’s populations are growing respectively by about 1,000 a year and 5,100 a year. If the city doesn’t act to buy LBA Woods soon while it is available, future generations will be crowded into existing parks that are already overflowing on nice days.

The LBA Woods are a true gem. The woods have more than four miles of wooded trails through varied terrains, including mature forest and alder groves. A dozen or so trees span three feet in diameter. Hundreds of people walk and enjoy nature in the woods. They are especially loved by dog walkers, cross-country runners, and seniors who can access the gently sloping trails. These woods provide habitat for 58 bird species and other wildlife which residents enjoy seeing in their back yards.

LBA Woods has special benefits that only a large open space area can provide. They are large enough to provide humans a natural refuge from the urban world and wildlife like barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, and mountain beavers the critical habitat they need.

What’s more, the flat areas on the edges of LBA woods are suitable for other important park uses. Those could include a dog park, a community garden and two full-sized rectangular sports fields.

The good news is that the city has the funding right now that it needs to buy 71 acres of the LBA woods, and still have about $9 million to $11 million left to acquire other park lands before 2024. This funding comes from the dedicated parks’ two-percent utility tax, which the city promised the voters in the 2004 parks and sidewalks measure that it would prioritize for acquiring park lands before they were lost. Here’s a link to those promises in the ballot measure and city mailer: http://1drv.ms/1GeWVQA.

This month the city will be sending out polls to randomly selected voters. If you want to help preserve this last forested area in the city, tell your friends, neighbors, and anyone who will listen that we want to save open space natural areas in Olympia and the urban growth area from encroaching development. Email the Olympia City Council at citycouncil@ci.olympia.wa.us . For more information or to sign the LBA Woods Park petition, please go to LBAWoodsPark.org.

If Margaret McKenny, the force behind Watershed Park, were alive today, she would be leading the charge!

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