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Parks Perspectives: Joseph Keeler Memorial Park
Unlike many of the City of Sequim’s parks, Joseph Keeler Memorial Park is large, undeveloped and consists of rolling fields, some lightly wooded areas and wetlands. Currently the park embodies 45 acres of potential.
Located near the intersection of Happy Valley Road and U.S. Highway 101, the park parallels the highway just east of Sequim.
In 2008, Joe Keeler and Carol Bolduc, the grandson and granddaughter of Joseph Keeler, sold 35 acres for $806,610 and donated an additional 10 acres to the City of Sequim with the arrangement that the land be used as a passive park. A passive park would require the property to stay in its undeveloped and natural state. However, since the original changing of hands the agreement has changed so the eastern half of the park may be active and thus allows for picnic tables, playground equipment and other such amenities.
“Those things are important for kids and they need things of a positive nature,” Joe Keeler said at the time the agreement was changed in 2011. “Any kind of use that’s compatible with a city park and helps bring people to a park is good all around.”
Although there’s a bit more flexibility for development at the park, it remains a “challenge for the plan,” City of Sequim special project manager Joe Irvin explained in reference to the Parks Master Plan update currently under way. The sheer size of the park, its location near the highway and the allocation of long-term maintenance and operations funds for the park are some of the challenges city officials are grappling with.
At the recent Parks Master Plan visioning workshop some of the public suggestions for the future use of Joseph Keeler Memorial Park included pickleball courts, safer access to the park from Happy Valley Road and nature trails. But for now the park is being put to use for cattle pasture.
About Joseph Keeler
Joseph Keeler moved to Port Townsend with his family from Kansas at age 14, but given his venturesome spirit, Keeler strayed north to prospect in British Columbia and the Yukon throughout the 1890s. By 1898 however, Keeler returned to the peninsula to marry the daughter of a Sequim pioneer family, Etta Priest, according to Appendix C Sequim History. In pursuit of additional business ventures the couple moved to Dawson with their son Hammond, but returned to Sequim in 1902 to settle down.
When Keeler arrived to area he brought his energy and thirst for businesses ventures with him. Keeler is responsible for building the first telegraph office, a saloon on Washington Street, the 50-room Sinclair Hotel, a water tower to pump in water and a generator to provide light, which later became the Sequim Light and Power Company, just to name a few of Keeler’s contributions to Sequim. In 1907, Keeler laid out the first plat for the town site.
The park’s future
Given Keeler’s substantial influence on the town, the Joseph Keeler Memorial Park property, which was once part of the Keeler farm, will have interpretive signs, including a history of the Keeler family, according to the City of Sequim Parks Restricted Fund 140R-143 Parks Keeler Property Acquisition.
In addition to interpretive and educational signage, there’s potential for nature trails and viewing areas. Currently the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is “looking into future uses for the park” and welcomes the public to share ideas with it, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board member, Patsy Mattingley said.
The future park plan has “to be careful to not encroach on the wetlands” within the park, Mattingley said. However the wetlands may provide an opportunity for a boardwalk or nature viewing area.
“Right now the use for the park is undecided, but we still have about two years before it’s paid off so we have some time to think,” Mattingley said.
While Irvin’s intention is to have the Parks Master Plan update to the city council for approval before the end of November, Mattingley explained the Parks Master Plan is a vision and therefore the future plan for Joseph Keeler Memorial Park doesn’t need to be set in stone, though, Mattingley anticipates the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to have a pretty good idea of what future holds for Joseph Keeler Memorial Park by then anyway.
To share ideas and thoughts about the future of Joseph Keeler Memorial Park, call the Sequim City Clerk at 683-4139.