City gets feedback from residents on new Highlands park

Jon Troxel shares his thoughts on a new park planned for the Renton Highlands with Leslie Betlach of the City of Renton. - Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter
Jon Troxel shares his thoughts on a new park planned for the Renton Highlands with Leslie Betlach of the City of Renton.
— image credit: Tracey Compton, Renton Reporter

Community members got their first look at some of the ideas City of Renton Parks planners have for a new park in the Highlands that is part of the Sunset Redevelopment project.

The project is the Sunset Neighborhood Master Plan and the open house was held last Thursday to solicit feedback from the community.

Four concepts were presented, representing the last three months of work by landscape achitect, HBB, and engineer, CH2MHILL. Only four components have been decided in each of the concepts: the park size, loading and unloading zones, the location and configuration of the regional stormwater facility and the parking location.

“I like the idea of having a park that is open to all generations to use and play, and after the community members brought up the idea of spaces for teens, think that this park will be just that,” said Kaelene Nobis, resident outreach coordinator for Renton Housing Authority.

“I think it’s going to end up being pretty cohesive for the residents and really entwined with the library,” she said.

About 20 people showed up for the meeting at McKnight Middle School. They listened to an explanation of concepts by the project team and then gathered into groups to share their own ideas. Some of the people present were intent upon asking about the number of housing units that will go into the property. The Sunset Redevelopment is intended to be a mix of market rate and low-income housing.

Members of the audience were concerned if the city looked at areas of overlap in terms of amenities at other nearby parks. According to officials, in trying to keep the park a neighborhood park and not a regional destination, some amenities came off the list.

What’s known almost certainly is that it will not be a dog park.

Community members came up with a list of things they’d like to see, which included activities for teens, all weather shelters, sports fields and courts, a flat lawn for creative play, a spray park and pea patch, among many other ideas.

“I think it’s wonderful to see picnic areas and play areas, environmentally safe areas for people in this community,” said Jon Troxel, an area apartment owner. “I whole-heartedly support this concept.”

Cynthia Burns, chair of the Parks Commission, was also in attendance and said she was amazed by the participation of those who turned out for the event.

“Everyone shared equally,” she said. “It was no holding back and that’s the kind of public involvement that we want in developing our parks.”

Parks Planning and Natural Resources Director Leslie Betlach said she thought the exchange went well with the community. She has received a lot of “thank yous,” she said, for her work on the project. People are surprised to be getting a redesigned neighborhood park.

The next steps are for the project team to pull together all of the comments and come up with some alternative solutions for the next open house meeting, which is June 18. There is no timeframe for construction yet. The land still has to be acquired and developed, Betlach said.

“It’s not uncommon,” she said. “We’re planning for the future; there’s opportunity out there through grants and other funding sources.”

Betlach also said at this stage there is no budget projection for the project.

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