Freedom Park & Rotary Adventure Playground, 5.19.19

Scenes from a Sunday afternoon at Freedom Park and the Rotary Adventure Playground on May 19, 2019.

The group behind Freedom Park on Camano Island plans to take advantage of a new county rule that would lower the costs to operate the private park.

The Island County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 17 approved changes to criteria that might reduce property taxes for small, privately owned community gardens and parks that are open to the public, such as Freedom Park at Terry’s Corner on Camano Island.

Under the state Open Space Act, landowners can request tax reductions based on current land use rather than the traditional “highest and best” use.

Until now, it only applied to landowners with at least 5 acres of open space, agricultural tracts or timberlands. Now, Island County Commissioners have reduced the minimum lot size to 1 acre for community gardens and have added community parks as a new eligible category.

“This is especially important because parks and gardens tend to be on a smaller scale,” Meredith Penny, county long range planner, told the commissioners. “It specifies that the facility must be open to the public ... and the facility must provide recreation or other services to youths, senior citizens, the handicapped or similar groups.”

This opens opportunities for small parks such as the 3.2-acre Freedom Park, where a 12,000-square-foot fantasy playground was built by the community in 2007. This popular park at Terry’s Corner is open to the public. Since the land is privately owned by Freedom Park Association, the organization must pay about $1,500 in 2019 property taxes. The park relies largely on donations for $12,200 in annual expenses that includes utilities, insurance and maintenance.

Now, Freedom Park can apply to have the land rated and get points to lower its taxes through the Public Benefit Rating System.

“We’re going to combine the three parcels and apply,” said Mike Nestor, Freedom Park Association board president.

The three parcels include the playground, the memorial and the eastern point with the Koffman Gallery. The Camano Island Chamber of Commerce used to own the eastern parcel but recently gave it to Freedom Park, Nestor said.

Contact reporter Peggy Wendel at pwendel@scnews.com or 360-416-2189.

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