Good memories for Steve Pinnell could mean even more for Sequim residents.
His old stomping grounds near the intersection of South Third Avenue and Reservoir Road are now Gerhardt Park, a 7-acre property owned and operated by the City of Sequim.
What goes into the new park is up in the air but Parks Manager Jeff Edwards hopes to receive feedback from the public before anything is set.
The park comes from Anton and Rosa Gerhardt, who signed an agreement in late 2006 giving the property to the city after their deaths in exchange for a domestic water connection. The Gerhardts bought the property in 1973 and the city’s only stipulation as the new owner is that it must remain a park.
Edwards said the city hasn’t made a plan or saved since the agreement because the exact date wasn’t determined until Rosa Gerhardt died last month. Anton Gerhardt died in 2007.
Before the agreement was made, Pinnell said he and his brother Lou spoke with the Gerhardts and they felt strongly about it becoming a park rather than a new development.
In the park sit two homes, two chicken coops, a few sheds, a barn and one long sheep shed. Behind the property line large forest area spans a gully, with Bell Creek in the middle.
Pinnell’s parents bough the property in 1939 for $350 and lived in a shack uphill until they brought in enough dirt to level off the property, one pickup truck load at a time.
Their original home was 12 feet by 14 feet, but the small space is now the kitchen and the home was expanded to about 900 square feet in two stories.
The property at one time was mostly swamp, Pinnell said, and it was last logged off in the 1930s.
“It took a long time to get going because my brother and me had hatchets as kids,” he joked.
Pinnell lived there until graduation in 1960 and sees distant memories from his childhood all around, including a fort he built in 1947 that even had a stove. It was still standing until last year when a tree fell on it.
“How it didn’t burn down I’ll never know,” he said.
His parents sold the property to another owner before it was sold to the Gerhardts in 1973. Those owners would go on to sell five of the 12 acres to neighbors to the north side of the property.
The Gerhardts didn’t have immediate family and opted to raised 150 sheep on the site, Pinnell said.
They also built the second home on the property in the mid-1970s while renting out the original home.
Anton Gerhardt would let the sheep loose in the fields during the day but lock them up at night for fear of coyotes.
“They loved wildlife and they would leave the mice under the animal feeders alone,” Pinnell said. “You would pick up a feeder and they’d run away. You’d put it back down and they’d all run back underneath.”
Possibilities at the park
City councilors and city staff took a shining to the new park in a tour on July 29.
City Councilor Genaveve Starr said the property was worth investing in and ironically she had just been talking about the possibilities of a nature preserve in the city.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to step back a few decades and it’s all just a few miles from the center of town,” said Councilor Candace Pratt.
Mayor Ken Hays agreed that the opportunity was fantastic. “It’s a treasure,” he said. But his concern was the initial cost to make the property usable.
Edwards said selling some of the trees as lumber could alleviate some of the maintenance costs on the property. He also suggested taking down some of the older structures and selling the wood, too. As a bonus, taking out the trees on the north property line would open up a view of the water, Edwards said.
Councilors and staff suggested opening up the homes for caretakers, creating tent campsites, opening it up for Scout groups, building a suspension bridge across the creek and creating a working farm again.
The older home on the property was last rented 10 years ago but is still used and livable today, Edwards said.
He compares the new park to the city’s Keeler Park off U.S. Highway 101, which doesn’t have amenities for the general public yet. Gerhardt Park uses a well, which he suggests leaving for property maintenance while connecting the homes to city services. The septic tanks recently were opened and found to be in excellent shape because the Gerhardts burned their paper waste.
The Pinnell brothers have been doing maintenance for the Gerhardts the past 10 years on the property. Edwards said he anticipates negotiating a contract with them to continue until a bigger plan is made.
He plans to do a budget analysis, bring the parks advisory board to the park again and investigate community feedback before making progress on a definitive future for the project.
“The first step was getting the city council involved because some of them haven’t even seen the property before,” Edwards said.
Public Works Director Paul Haines said a proposal for constructing an asphalt pathway on Third Avenue from the property to Brownfield Road on the east side goes to the city council in September.
“Accessibility will become much better with it,” Haines said.
Keeler Park remains the only park project the city holds debt on, at about $250,000 this year. It is expected to be paid off by 2016.
To provide feedback on the park, call 683-4908.