Two months after the vote, though, officials counsel patience. They first want to get a solid read from locals on what they want in the new park, to take shape on the 10-acre parcel where the now-demolished Washington Elementary once sat, and that’ll take time.
“We don’t want to develop it in a vacuum,” said Francisco Astorga, planning director for Bountiful. He suspects getting feedback could take six months, meaning park development “in a perfect world” could begin next fall.
Mayor Randy Lewis said the ideas for the park — which would absorb adjacent Washington Park, measuring around 1.4 acres — have varied. The city is working out a deal to acquire the land from the Davis School District, which hopes to use the park at times for some school activities, perhaps lacrosse and soccer. Other possibilities, Lewis said, include pickleball courts or a skateboard park.
“This is going to be a great park,” Lewis said, bolstering recreational options for those on the west side of Bountiful. The city doesn’t have a lot of large open swaths, and acquiring the school property allows for creation of more open space for residents.
Beyond that, Lewis said part of the $8 million is to be used to better develop the trail system on the east side of Bountiful, where the city starts moving up the mountainside. “We’re just kind of behind in that aspect,” Lewis said.
Bountiful voters approved the $8 million park and trails bond question last November by a 59.4%-40.6% margin. Around $3.5 million of the funds would be used to buy the ex-Washington Elementary land, and the deal between the school district and city is nearly finalized. The rest, up to around $4.5 million, is to go for park development and upgrades to the city’s trail system.
Notwithstanding the strong support the bond question received, the plans have a cost. The bonds, when issued, will cause a bump upward in property taxes, an estimated $32.57 per year for up to 20 years on a home valued at $371,000, the average in Bountiful.
And Bountiful resident Ronald Mortensen, for one, is a skeptic. He had lobbied against the bond, crafted the argument against the ballot question sent out to residents ahead of Nov. 3, Election Day, along with the argument for the initiative, per state guidelines. He’s still paying attention as the plans roll out. “I’m asking questions,” Mortensen said.
He wonders why the school district didn’t just hold onto the land and develop it since it still hopes to use it. On the other hand, if the land is to be sold, he suspects the school district might get more for it if it found a buyer from the private sector, thus giving the school system a larger potential windfall. Moreover, in private hands, the land would generate property tax revenue.
Given its location, Mortensen said, “it would be a prime commercial property that would increase the city’s tax base considerably as well as the school district’s tax base.” District officials didn’t immediately respond to a query seeking comment.
Lewis, though, noted that open land in Bountiful is at a premium given growth and the other cities bumping up against it, North Salt Lake, Woods Cross, West Bountiful and Centerville. The opportunity to acquire the school district parcel could not be passed. “We don’t have a lot of those,” the mayor said.
Among the next steps will be efforts to give the public a chance to formally sound off on how the new park should be developed.