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Future of the Fairgrounds: Regional center or community park?

Most Silverdale residents have opinions about proposed improvements to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds, and it seemed all of them attended a Jan. 16 meeting to share their thoughts.

The meeting turned into a battle of wills among Fairgrounds-neighborhood residents and supporters of the development. Neighbors voiced concerns about watershed damage and increased traffic, while backers of the plan pushed for more recreational facilities at the campus.

An estimated 250 people attended the meeting, which was organized so the Kitsap County Fair Board and the Open Space, Parks and Greenways Advisory Group (OSPGAG) could collect information and make a recommendation to the County Commissioners.

A $4.2 million grant from the county Public Facilities District will help fund extensive improvements to the Fairgrounds. The funds could be used to install artificial turf and a new stage in Thunderbird Stadium, improve play fields and build covered equestrian facilities.

The Silverdale Ice Arena, set to open this fall or winter at the Fairgrounds, was a flashpoint for debate at Wednesday’s meeting. Silverdale resident Greg Meakin is spearheading the ice arena effort, which will be funded in part by Joanne and Chuck Haselwood, owners of the Haselwood Auto Group.

Traffic backed up to Old Military Road on one weekend when the Fairgrounds hosted both a commercial exhibit and a soccer tournament, according to neighbor Rainey Stolp. She said she is not opposed to the ice arena, but she objects to its proposed location at the northeast corner of the Pavilion parking lot.

Fairgrounds neighbor John Nantz estimated the improvements will cause 1.3 million additional car trips though the area each year, negating county work to alleviate congestion.

Other speakers told of long commutes to skating facilities, and complained about a shortage of activities for kids.

“I currently drive an hour and a half so (my son) can skate,” said Eric Gibson, a Fairgrounds-area resident. “It would be wonderful if he could walk or ride his bike.”

Representatives of the Silver Spurs riding club worried that the Fairgrounds plan would swallow the club’s land, adjacent to the campus. They cited a meeting notice sent Jan. 10 by the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Department, which discussed “expanding to include property to the east now owned by the Silver Spur Clubs for additional sport (sic) fields and parking.”

“I’m very concerned that you want to change this part of the plan and get rid of us,” said Lynn Wayland, vice president of Silver Spurs.

Parks and Rec Director Cris Gears replied that the expansion was not included in a revised version of the Fairgrounds master plan, and club members’ fears were unfounded.

A large group of 4-H and equine supporters urged decision-makers to cover the equine facility at the Fairgrounds and to improve the livestock facility

At several points, the forum turned into a debate about Silverdale’s character.

“This is a rural community,” said Lewis Jackson of Silver Spurs. “Everybody likes to think of us as being out in the county.”

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