The Lakewood City Council may return to one of the thorniest issues it has faced in recent years: What to do with undeveloped access points to the city’s four largest lakes.
The council left the issue drop in early 2009 after a two-year community debate about the future of 14 areas where city streets come to an end near the shores of Lake Steilacoom, American Lake, Gravelly Lake and Lake Louise.
Some recreation-minded residents contended that opening these rights of way by building trails or clearing brush would improve access to public lakes. But owners of waterfront property worried it would intensify problems they’re already facing: litter, noise and parked cars.
Two recent developments appear to be bringing the street-end issue back into the open.
First, a City Council member is pushing it. Second, the city is finishing a draft plan that examines how it will meet the parks and recreation needs of Lakewood residents for the next two decades.
One of the 120 strategies seeks “final resolution regarding individual street end properties.”
The issue is not new; the city has grappled with street ends since it inherited them from Pierce County when Lakewood became a city in 1996.
City staff plans to brief the council on the so-called Legacy Plan in early April. It then plans to take it out for public review and comment before the council adopts it this summer.
Parks and Recreation Director Mary Dodsworth cautioned the plan doesn’t answer how to resolve the street-end debate, just that it should be addressed. The council will have to decide how to go about doing that, she said.
“It’s really more big picture,” she said of the plan.
Meanwhile, Councilman Michael Brandstetter has been pushing for a resolution, bringing up the need for it at a recent council meeting. He said during a later interview he opposes letting the issue sit indefinitely.
“We’re not going to get anywhere by saying this is something that is too uncomfortable a conversation to have in public,” he said.
Mayor Don Anderson and Councilwoman Helen McGovern are the only members of the seven-member council who were on the council when it last discussed the issue.
Both expressed reluctance to open what they called a “can of worms” without having more information on how much time and money it would take.
Anderson said there may be some discussion about street ends, but his stance is to focus any conversation on whether the sale or development of specific properties could meet the goals of the Legacy Plan.
Anderson said the council shelved the issue because it was determined some street ends had little use or value, and the city didn’t have the funds to develop and maintain the ones with value.
Little has changed, in his mind, because the city still doesn’t have the money and it has little ability to market the properties in the current economic conditions.
“I don’t believe we have the staff resources or the council will to push it forward despite Mike’s willingness,” the mayor said.
The prior debate included five community meetings, work by a consultant and a recommendation by the city’s parks advisory board before it hit a dead end. The board and residents shared the same sentiment on how to deal with some street ends but it split on others. The options included developing, leaving “as is”, vacating, selling or leasing.