Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park ready to take action

Based on the attendance at Gibson Hall April 18, there are many citizens of Issaquah who want to help improve the ailing Lake Sammamish State Park.

Based on the attendance at Gibson Hall April 18, there are many citizens of Issaquah who want to help improve the ailing Lake Sammamish State Park.

The newly formed group, “Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park,” has submitted articles of incorporation to the state and have created by-laws which are currently under review by an attorney. The group last met in February after a very informal initial meeting in December 2012. It wants to encourage involvement in the implementation of improvements, consistent with the park’s redevelopment and restoration concept plan according to its mission statement.

“I watched my kids play soccer (at the park) never knowing what was on the other side of the invasive blackberry patch,” said chairman Chris Kovac.

The other officers are Jim Berry, treasurer, and Connie Marsh, secretary.

Park ranger Rich Benson said the lack of money for state parks has been an issue for “many, many years.” He said five to six years ago, 60 percent of the park’s funding came from the state general fund, and he would like to see it get back to that level.

There is a good chance that state funds will be available to build a new bathhouse and refurbish Sunset Beach.

The capital budget proposed by the senate includes more than $3.5 million for both projects.

The existing bath house is a cinder block building that has been there since the ‘50s and is in rough shape. The design is already completed for a new structure, that would include concessions and a covered area.

Starting in July, construction on a boardwalk will begin, which has been designed and funded. It will be at the mouth of Issaquah Creek. Benson said it should be completed by Labor Day weekend. And even though there is still construction activity at the new boat launch, it is open.

People at the meeting were asked to identify what is important to them at the park.

“Our goal is to figure out what we can do to see the park used year-round,” Berry said.

Interest was expressed in somehow making the park self-sustaining, since state funding is such an unknown. As it is now, any money the park makes goes to the state parks, resources and stewardship account, Benson said, not into the state general fund. He said this is so the state can divide money equally between all state parks because they’re all ailing.

One citizen expressed concern that there is no marina, nowhere to get gas and no restaurant on the lake, which could attract more users. And plenty of people talked about goose poop, a huge problem on the beaches.

With three city council members in attendance, the question was raised as to whether or not the park could be somehow transferred to the city of Issaquah. Benson said he doubts that could happen because the state wants to retain the income it receives off its Discover Passes from people who use the state parks.

The bike trail on the west side of the park is near completion, and there are plans for a dedicated bike trail system in the park.

The group is seeking help with documents to set up its 501c3 status, as well as its website. Those who can help are asked to visit Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park on Facebook.