Uncertain future looms for Wildcat Lake

Wildcat Lake, which is closed each year for the winter, may remain closed for the summer season due to a tightening county budget. - Andy Jones/staff photo
Wildcat Lake, which is closed each year for the winter, may remain closed for the summer season due to a tightening county budget.
— image credit: Andy Jones/staff photo

County considering closing popular park because of budget constraints.

Wildcat Lake’s extensive swimming area, abundant fishing opportunities and spectacular mountain views attract large numbers of Kitsap County residents every summer.

But the park is expensive to operate, as it is devoid of any revenue source and requires high maintenance costs.

As a result, the park, located at 9205 Holly Road NW, may be shut down this summer to help the county narrow its budget gap.

“It’s not something I would like to see happen, but times are changing and there’s no written script on this type of thing,” said James Dunwiddie, who assumed the role of Kitsap County Parks and Recreation director Nov. 9.

The department first made the announcement on the possible temporary closure last month.

Dunwiddie, who just moved from New Jersey, said he will begin looking at proposals to keep the park open in January, after he has time to fully research the department’s budget situation. As part of the county’s plan to cut spending by $7 million, the parks department must axe $465,000.

Closure of the park, along with Horseshoe Lake in South Kitsap, would save the county $140,000.

“Hopefully, by March we’ll have a game plan, if possible,” Dunwiddie said.

The park is closed every winter from October 1 to March 31.

Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said the park’s relative isolation greatly increases its expenses, especially since it is a “smaller pocket park” and not a larger wilderness area such as Illahee, which costs little in upkeep.

Brown said the park’s location also attracts more unwanted behavior than other sites, such as excessive drinking and homelessness. He compared the park to the relatively urban location of Island Lake Park, which is easy to manage for law enforcement.

“It’s the furthest park away that requires substantial resources,” he said.

Brown said he also like to see the parks department explore other intermediate options, such as reducing hours or closing the park during the weekdays.

“I’m not sold by the recreation department that it needed be closed for all of next summer” Brown said. “There are other parks with its characteristics but there aren’t many with lake access.”

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