What to do about Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore? Some want it to remain in its natural state; others would welcome private business...

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What to do about Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore?

Some want it to remain in its natural state; others would welcome private business such as a brew pub.

Both views were expressed in a meeting Thursday about developing a comprehensive plan for the park sponsored by the state Parks and Recreation Commission. Another public hearing is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at the Northshore Utility District, 6830 N.E. 185th St., Kenmore.

With a decision on the comprehensive plan due in May, specific ideas on the table range from the pub to a learning center to a veterans museum to keeping the park natural.

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About 25 people attended Thursday’s session and four signed up to make public comments.

One speaker represented longtime views held by a community group known as Citizens for Saint Edward State Park, which has fought for preserving the park in its natural state. Other comments were made on behalf of a concept known as the Saint Edward Environmental Learning Center, which seeks to start a sustainable school activity at the park.

Other interest in using the park has been expressed by the Seattle Veterans Museum, which now operates in downtown Seattle.

Park decision

Key dates in the decision-making process regarding a comprehensive plan for Saint Edward State Park.

Today: Public comment, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at the Northshore Utility District, 6830 N.E. 185th St., Kenmore.

March 7: Parks Commission work session in Castle Rock, Cowlitz County, to consider recommendations.

April 26: Parks Commission meeting in Quincy, Grant County, to decide what recommendation to make to the state parks director.

May: Parks director is expected to approve a management plan.

After a comprehensive plan is adopted, other proposals would be solicited, said Bill Koss, parks manager of planning and research. The state would advertise for proposals, which would lead to plans being brought before the commission in the fall.

But much of the controversy about plans for the park has been generated by a 2005 proposal made by McMenamins, a Portland pub company that opened its first site in 1983 and in 2005 approached the parks commission about the former Saint Edward Seminary building.

That building, which was erected in 1931 and used until 1977, is vacant and decaying, filled with obsolete systems, leaking water and does not meet modern building codes.

The land represents virtually the last such undeveloped property along Lake Washington.

McMenamins has proposed leasing the building to make it into a beer pub and 100-room hotel and conference center.

Two of the four speakers thought that was a great idea.

“I would love to see McMenamins come and do this,” said Duane Hansen, a six-year Juanita resident.

“They have a great track record of working with old buildings,” said Hansen, describing how he’d been to a McMenamins in Troutdale, Ore., which was a former county poor farm, and now has been made into a key community asset.

Buildings fall into disrepair and decline if they’re abandoned and unused, he said, and McMenamins has shown it’s capable of not letting that happen.

“It [the building] needs a reason to be,” Hansen said.

Richard Majer, of Edmonds, argued that a McMenamins would be one of the best things that could happen at Saint Edward.

“I love McMenamins,” he said, adding that the McMenamins plan even calls for such features as renewable energy supplies.

“I think you’d be surprised,” he said. “In Centralia, they saved the downtown area. They’re fantastic.”

Other audience members, including Ann Hurst, an organizer of Citizens for Saint Edward State Park, were skeptical, recalling a visit to a McMenamins where she found the business filled with partying 20- to 25-year-olds.

“It was a bar,” she said, which she added has no place in a park that’s now a site of serenity and tranquility.

Other materials distributed at the session included petitions asking for a two-year moratorium by the commission on making a decision, allowing more time to develop alternatives.

Eventually, said Bill Koss, parks manager of planning and research who moderated the meeting, it’s expected that a feasible plan for the park will be devised, perhaps incorporating both concepts, as difficult as that may be.

Koss added that the McMenamins proposal still is active and has not been withdrawn.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or pwhitely@seattletimes.com.

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