Woodland council votes to keep Scott Hill Park land for park use

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The Scott Hill Park sports complex in Woodland is slowly coming along, though one city councilor still has questions about who will run it when the project is completed.

During its Oct. 4 meeting, the Woodland City Council voted 6-0 to approve a restrictive covenant on the land off of Scott Hill Road which ensures the property will only be used as a park until 2035. The covenant is a requirement of the Washington State Department of Commerce. The move will allow the project to receive more grant funding from the state so it can be completed.

The city purchased the land for the park in 2011, according to a timeline on the project website, and the Woodland Rotary Club has been involved with fundraising and construction of the park. When it’s completed, the park will feature a number of soccer, softball and baseball fields, as well as parking, among other improvements.

Scott Hill Park committee chair Sandy Larson said current councilor Benjamin Fredricks put forth the name of the park because he wanted to honor a historical connection. She said the Scott family were surveyors and homesteaded the hill that both the park and Scott Hill Road are named after.

The park officially broke ground in 2017. At the meeting, Larson said the project is about 50% through the first of three phases. The first phase includes construction of the entrance, a maintenance building, restrooms, some parking, a covered shelter, one third of a paved walking trail, a natural grass multi-use field, an event shelter, and a third of the landscaping, according to the project website.

“Yes, it’s taken a while to get all the things done because Rotary started with an idea, a vision,” Larson said. “It really is a happening place, and it will happen, because that’s the determination of Rotary.”

In total, Larson said the project will cost $16 million, with the first phase costing the least.

Woodland Rotary Club member Darlene Johnson said the latest state grant for the project was $600,000. Johnson added the state has likely funded more than $2 million of the project. She said state investment happened because of the potential sales tax revenue it could generate.

“When we have tournaments and stuff within that park, it brings more money when you’re a sales tax state than you can really believe,” Johnson said. “The park itself never really makes a lot of money. It’s what the city and surrounding areas make from it. The park is pretty much a break-even thing when you rent the fields.”

Acknowledging he only has a few months left on the council before his 13-year career in city government ends, Fredricks took time to acknowledge the contributions of the Woodland Rotary Club to the city.

“The folks that are actually getting it done and doing the work, that’s Ms. Larson. That’s Rotary,” Fredricks said.

Councilor DeeAnna Holland said she wanted to see more financial transparency during the project, saying she hears about the money the park receives but hasn’t heard what the funds have been used for.

“It’s a city park, right? And I’ve never seen any of that (transparency),” Holland said.

Holland also had questions about who will maintain the park after its completion. She recalled a visit by the Rotary club to a city finance committee meeting where the idea of forming a foundation for the park to provide upkeep was proposed.

She questioned whether or not management of the park would fall under the city’s parks and recreation department. Larson said the maintenance would be a greater scope than what the city’s public works resources could offer.

“It’s going to take four or five people to run it, and there’s going to be a lot involved, and I don’t know if public works really wants to take that on,” Larson said.

Holland said the council had agreed the property would be a city park.

“The organization who is tasked and taken on the responsibility of fundraising and building it wants to also create a foundation to manage it,” Holland said.

Holland said that agreement was put in place through a prior memorandum of understanding between the city and the club. The memorandum states the city will maintain the park for at least 10 years once the project is completed.

Fredricks backed the idea of the Rotary running the park, pointing to the potential for new individuals in city government to “screw it up” as the project has been in the making for a decade.

“I think the city should be a partner, but I don’t think the city should have anything to do with running the day-to-day operations of that (park),” Fredricks said.

“If we don’t feel confident that they can handle overseeing this park, why do we have a parks board?” Holland responded.

Councilor Janice Graham, a member of the Woodland Rotary, said Holland’s questions about the future management of the park veered off course from what the council was considering at the meeting.

“You need to educate yourself a little more on how this park got started and what we have gone through for 10 years to get where we’re at and the foundation that had to be built,” Graham said.

Councilor Carol Rounds, who is also a Rotary member, said “that’s a long ways off for the management of the park, because we’ve got to get the thing built first.”

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