A controversial conversation that began before Christmas was laid to rest on Monday as Gig Harbor’s City Council voted unanimously to agree that private displays would not be allowed within the city’s public parks.
This decision was based on a recommendation from the Parks Commission, which was instructed by Mayor Jill Guernsey and the City Council to consider the matter beginning in December, with a written public comment period that gathered significant public testimony, according to Katrina Knutson, Parks Project administrator.
“The Parks Commission felt that our parks are for everyone … (and) by allowing private displays those parks could become cluttered and not be used for their intended purpose,” Knutson said.
The discussion began at the beginning of the holiday season when the city of Gig Harbor received a letter on Nov. 16 from the Freedom from Religion Foundation threatening legal action if the nativity scene — placed in the past by the holiday tree in Skansie Park — was erected beside last year’s tree, placed in Donkey Creek Park.
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The Parks Commission met and discussed the matter during Jan. 4 and Feb. 1 meetings. A separate matter, whether the city should purchase and erect a publicly-owned nativity as part of the city’s annual holiday display, is scheduled to be discussed during the May 1 joint Council and Parks Commission meeting.
As part of the decision, private displays that are part of permitted special events would continue to be allowed in public parks.
Gig Harbor Little League Facility Use Agreement
The Council agreed unanimously to a facility use agreement proposed by Peninsula Light Company as part of a conversation surrounding the transfer of the property to the city.
Located on 50th Avenue Northwest in Gig Harbor, the agreement states that PenLight is willing to convey the property to the city, so long as the Gig Harbor Little League is able to maintain regular use of the facility, according to Knutson.
This agreement will take place only after the property is fully conveyed from PenLight to the city, at which point the city will pay the Gig Harbor Little League $28,253.93, which is approximately the amount of interest paid by the league to PenLight following their current real estate agreement.
Gig Harbor Little League President Bridget Boldt was president at the meeting and expressed her support for the agreement.
“We are tremendously excited about this opportunity. This is something that, in terms of the Gig Harbor sports complex itself, is needed,” Boldt said. “This complex is extremely important to the youth in this community. The fact that we use these fields for a limited time of the year and then they sit vacant for so many months of the year and someone can use them is exciting.”
Council member Tim Payne also expressed his support for the agreement: “We certainly hope that the land acquisition goes without a hiccup … this is one of those wonderful partnerships that when government decides to be creative, it can be.”
Additional environmental testing on PenLight site
As part of the proposed PenLight property transfer, additional environmental testing was approved by the Council.
A contract with Aspect Consulting was approved for phase two environmental testing, following phase one testing previously approved at the Feb. 27 meeting by the Council.
The next Gig Harbor City Council meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. March 27 at the Civic Center, located at 3510 Grandview Street. More information and meeting agendas can be found online at cityofgigharbor.net.