On May 12, the City of Lacey is kicking off a process to consider future uses for more than 500 acres of its parks and greenways with a virtual open house. The three, open-space lands under discussion are included in the Greg Cuoio Park and Greenways Master Plan development process, and include Greg Cuoio Park, Pleasant Glade Park, and Palm Creek Headwaters.
The virtual open house, the first of several opportunities for the public to provide input on the Master Plan, will take place on Wednesday, May 12 from 6-8 p.m. Participants will need to register to attend the online event.
Lacey Parks, Culture, and Recreation Director Jen Burbidge explains that the virtual open house is just the beginning of a public-outreach process to help the City plan the future uses of the project’s lands. The park lands include wilderness, wetland, and creeks, and are located in the northwest corner of Lacey’s city limits with some of the north acreage actually in unincorporated Thurston County. However, the lands are not far from Lacey’s Gateway area and only 3.5 miles west of the main Hawks Prairie business district.
Burbidge says it makes sense to look at the three adjacent sites, concurrently, when the City is discussing the future of such a large natural area. “It’s important to take a balcony view in certain areas, particularly when the properties connect,” states Burbidge. She says Lacey’s park system has approximately 1,200 acres of developed, undeveloped park, and recreation areas. This project encompasses 537 acres of this total.
Named after a long-time Lacey city manager, Greg Cuoio Park includes 407 acres of open space, purchased several years ago in what was then described as a legacy acquisition. The City anticipates its future will include passive recreation, while balancing woodlands and wildlife-habitat preservation, environmental restoration, and water-quality protection.
Pleasant Glade Park is a 43-acre, minimally developed site with a small pond, Woodland Creek frontage, and a small picnic area.
Palm Creek Headwaters is an 87-acre site that will most likely include trails combined with woodlands, and habitat and water-quality preservation in the future.
Burbidge says Lacey started to purchase properties called greenways a while back, as part of its long-term efforts to support parks and open areas. A greenway is a corridor of undeveloped land, preserved for recreational use or environmental protection.
Harmonizing environmental preservation goals while simultaneously creating a place for residents and visitors to enjoy the park lands and greenways will be one of the challenges in developing the Master Plan. For example, discussions will include types of possible uses by residents and visitors. “Passive uses” are activities like hiking or having a picnic, while “active uses” are recreational pursuits such as basketball or tennis. Burbidge says additional items like access, walkways, parking, and restrooms will also need to be considered. “We need to find out the various ways community members see themselves using the space,” she says.
HBB Landscape Architecture, a Seattle design firm brought on board as consultants, will lead the open house participants through a visioning exercise. “The consultants will ask questions about what people are interested in for the lands’ future, how they relate to the parks, and what they want to see in the community,” Burbidge says. She adds that the open house will also include polling of participants and live chat questions. Following the open house, the community will have an opportunity to take a survey to provide more information.
HBB Landscape Architecture Principal and Landscape Architect Juliet Vong says the open house will set the groundwork and cover both what the lands are like now and, within that context, ask what recreation members of the public would like to have on those lands in the future. “Do they want playgrounds? Outdoor fitness areas? Zip lines? Picnic areas? Outdoor classroom spaces?” she says. She adds that the firm’s experience shows that the best parks are created when people come forward in the planning process to say what is important to them.
Burbidge says there will be more opportunities for the public to give input after the May 12 open house. The consultants will gather information and then help the City prepare the Master Plan and describe the most feasible first phase moving forward. Vong says the hope is that this part of the master-planning process will be ready by early 2022. Next steps will include identifying future phases and working on more details of implementation such as funding and permitting.
After registering for the May 12 virtual open house, participants will receive instructions on how to comment and also be added to the project stakeholder list. For more information and to see future updates, visit the City’s webpage dedicated to this project.