W. Richland not planning major changes to Flat Top Park

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 8, 2013 

Contrary to rumors floating about town, West Richland Mayor Donna Noski said neither the city council nor city officials have any plans to make drastic changes to the city's beloved Flat Top Park.

"If anything, we want to enhance it," she said Friday.

In response to "Save Flat Top Park," signs posted around town and what Noski calls misinformation, the city made up a flier and inserted it in residents' utility bills this month.

The flier says "the city has no plans to replace or remove Flat Top Park" and outlines some recent improvements made at the park, including buying more land, acquiring irrigation water rights for expansion and making upgrades to the parking lot and restroom.

Noski said city hall has received a few calls asking about changes at Flat Top. So far, she said, "it's all hearsay. I don't know why people think we're changing the park."

Noski speculated the rumors may have originated from another survey the city had done about revamping the Van Giesen Street corridor.

"One conception drawing showed a spot for a small city hall and shopping center, coffee shops or something like that, in the parking lot below Flat Top. But that's all it is, a concept," Noski said.

But Dan Richey and other members of West Richland Citizens for Smart Growth, a grass-roots group, are opposed to establishing what he calls a "commercial node" at Bombing Range and West Van Giesen Street.

The group is responsible for the "Save Flat Top Park" signs posted around town.

Richey and his group contend that rezoning the southeast corner of West Van Giesen Street, across from Flat Top, from residential to commercial is "creating a toehold" for eventual development.

Commercial development there is a real possibility. Charlie Grigg, co-owner of Griggs Department Store in Pasco and several Ace Hardware stores in the Tri-Cities, owns property at the corner and has told the city he wants to build an Ace Hardware there.

Richey and his group base their belief that the city is eyeballing Flat Top for eventual development based on a study the city commissioned in 2010 called Van Giesen Corridor Renaissance.

The study is divided into three concepts: The first deals with the Yakima River gateway into the city, the second with the Red Mountain Center gateway at Van Giesen and Keene Road and the third with the Bombing Range-Van Giesen intersection.

The city, he said, is already working on the Yakima River gateway and having rezoned the southeast corner of west Van Giesen, it's only a matter of time before commercial development marches up Bombing Range.

Richey said his group isn't against growth but believes the city's plan will cost West Richland residents their park.

"We'll be trading swing sets for city hall offices," he said.

The city is not taking any part of the park, Noski said. "In fact, the city purchased 2.5 additional acres late in 2008 or early 2009 adjacent to Flat Top Park to expand it."

"One idea was to put in an amphitheater. There are a lot of ideas to enhance the park, not only for what it's used for now, but to broaden the usage in the future," she said.

This month, Flat Top will be the site for two big community events: the city's annual Harvest Festival on Sept. 21 and the Time of Remembrance ceremonies to honor service men and women who have died fighting the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan on Sept. 29.

"The park is used a lot and loved a lot," said Noski.

On Sept. 30, the West Richland Park Board plans to hold an open house to discuss how to get the city's 13 parks, and any future ones, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The open house is at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 3801 W. Van Giesen St. For more information, call 967-5902.

To read the city's Parks and Recreation Master Plan, go to the website, www.west richland.org, click on "departments" and then on "parks."

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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