Comment: Pen Met Parks should maintain all the properties as well as they do Sehmel Homestead Park.
Response: We couldn’t agree with you more! The disparity between the Fox Island properties and some off the island is striking to say the least. One thing that PenMet told us about our flyer is that it doesn’t reflect all that PenMet does for everyone, including Fox Islanders, meaning, of course, all of the programs PenMet puts on. Our comment to this is very simple: If you look at PenMet’s catalog of programs they are conducting this year, there is not one program being conducted on Fox Island. To us, that’s telling. PenMet makes money on its programs (and we have no issue with that), but it’s clear to us that PenMet does not consider any of the Fox Island properties potential money-makers. This has to influence its decisions on how much time and effort they want to spend on Fox Island and why so much deferred maintenance exists on PenMet’s Fox Island properties.
Question: Applaud effort but mailer left me head scratching. Web site letter helped. Success comes from clear, concise communications. Thanks and you can count on our signatures.
Response: Sorry to hear your head itches! We have a mountain of information that we can and will share with everyone as we move forward. We tried to keep the flyer short and sweet and as concise as possible. The photos and the graph were the main points we wanted to get across. We are being taxed at about $1,000,000 per year for the last two years and the three PenMet properties are receiving very little attention in terms of expenditures and in terms of staff time. We will be offering more details in this regard with regular updates on our website. We will also be sending out emails with more information to all of those who’ve signed up. Those updates and emails will concentrate on a single issue at a time and will also provide whatever information we have been able to obtain from PenMet through Public Record Requests. A few have posted on Facebook that the Public Record Requests are a waste of time and money, but PenMet has instructed us, on more than occasion, that if we want any information we need to file Public Record Requests. We are just following their instructions. You’ll also see from the few responses we’ve received that there is some concerning information. It’s possible that our first update will concentrate on what Public Record Requests we’ve filed and the responses or lack of responses we’ve received. You’ll easily see from that information that PenMet has not been the most communicative organization.
Question: Let’s not forget about Cedrona Boat Launch (PenMet owned) and Tow Head (maybe not PenMet)
Response: We definitely are not forgetting the Cedrona Boat Launch on 13th. That property was donated to PenMet by Pierce County and PenMet has done nothing with it since it obtained ownership. One of the first things we’d do is investigate the feasibility of making that property a usable boat launch. Amanda Babich laughingly referred to that property as the “portable boat launch,” and we think it’s telling that this property does not even show up on PenMet’s official park map.
The Tow Head boat launch is owned by the Bureau of Land Management so it’s outside the scope of our efforts. That property will also undoubtedly be impacted in some manner by whatever final decision is made with regard to the Fox Island Bridge repair/replacement.
Why am I so interested in the Parks on Fox Island issue?
Long story short, I’ve been on the receiving end of owning property next to public property.
Fact is, I owned the Fox Island fishing pier property from 1967 into the 1970s. Those who were Fox Island residents, and probably others, may remember what we had built on the old provisions dock structure there. The pictures below show that.
There was public access to the beach at the end of Ozette Drive, next to our property, and when we would come to enjoy the place, we were usually disappointed to find significant damage to the property and the dock.
That was our first introduction to the reality: public facilities, which are, certainly, very important to have available to everyone, must also be designed and buffered to protect neighbors. The spillover of activity by the public onto other property (trespassing, roadway parking, etc.) can be extremely stressful, and even hazardous to those living in proximity.
The FICRA Building Trust, for example, has taken extensive steps to work with immediate neighbors on this issue to be sure that the activities we host there are reasonably controlled to protect those neighbors. That includes noise, parking, hours of use, and the appearance of the Nichols Community Center and nearby Nature Center.
If any public use parks on Fox Island are not being managed to be safe and to respect neighbors, then action should be taken to correct that. Considering the recent actions to eliminate the hosts on the fishing pier and the Demolay Sandspit sites, and subsequent findings of the costs we islanders bear for the visibly inadequate maintenance there, I simply feel the obligation to contribute towards correcting that as best I can.
In July 2021 Peggy Power and Glenn Hansen contacted me with information they had gathered on our PenMet Fox Island parks and asked if I would try to help make things right. I pledged to do what I could and, therefore, I am both interested, and involved.
Past President of FICRA and the FICRA Building Trust and current Project Manager for the Trust.
WHY DID I GET INVOLVED IN THE FOX ISLAND/PENMET ISSUE?
In recent months, I became involved with the issues surrounding the Fox Island Bridge and through that involvement I met several Fox Islanders who have donated much of their time to our Fox Island community. Some of the people involved with the bridge issue were also concerned about PenMet’s termination of the Park Host Program—a situation I knew nothing about at the time. This was back in the summer of 2021. I didn’t get actively involved in this issue until a meeting held at the Nichols Community Center on January 11, 2022. I attended that meeting with an open mind, knowing nothing about the issue.
At that meeting, two representatives from PenMet were attempting to explain to those in attendance why the Park Host Program had been terminated. It was quite apparent to me, after listening to the presentation, that PenMet had basically decided to terminate the Park Host Program because, in the case of the Fox Island parks, the properties were just too small and non-revenue generating for PenMet to bother.
Being a member of the FICRA Trust Board of Directors (the Trust is the entity that owns and manages the Nichols Community Center), I offered up a possible solution to PenMet’s situation regarding the Park Host Program. I asked the representatives if PenMet would be open to the Trust operating the Park Host Program through its volunteers in a manner similar to our Citizens’ Patrol Program. I mentioned that we could probably provide the volunteers and PenMet could simply reimburse the Trust for any minor expenses incurred.
In less than 24 hours, the representatives got back to me saying that PenMet was not going to consider my offer because it was “an inappropriate delegation of PenMet’s responsibilities.” This rationale bothered me a great deal as the “responsibilities” they mention are the same responsibilities PenMet was refusing to fulfill on its own. Shortly thereafter, PenMet had the audacity to reach out to me seeking volunteers for the DeMolay Sandspit cleanup day. I had to ask why cleaning duties were a permissible delegation of duties when monitoring the properties was an impermissible one? I received no response. As a courtesy to PenMet, the Trust Board and FICRA agreed to get the word out asking for volunteers, and we let PenMet know that were making that effort. PenMet then had the further audacity to ask the Trust and/or FICRA to bring coffee for the volunteers.
It was at this point, that I began to sense the frustration others who had been dealing with the Park Host Program termination were feeling. I had multiple requests for further information, all of which were totally ignored. I found PenMet to be very non-responsive and opaque—two characteristics an entity that exists on public tax dollars should never be.
I then visited the Fishing Pier, the DeMolay Sandspit, and the Boat Launch only to find all three properties in a serious state of neglect. It was obvious to me that PenMet was paying little or no attention to any of these properties. I then researched how much we were paying on our tax bills to PenMet and found out for the last two years we’ve paid about $1,000,000 annually. I had to ask what, if anything, were we getting for our money?
I’ve done a lot more research and interviewed several former PenMet employees. Both the results of my research and the gist of what I was being told in the interviews were consistent is raising serious concerns about how PenMet was being operated. Fox Island represents two things, in my opinion, to PenMet: (1) A bank account that can be drawn upon as needed without any requirement that any of those funds be spent performing PenMet’s duties as a property owner and (2) an island where three properties exist that are nothing more than an inconvenience to PenMet to own and maintain properly.