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Kitsap Tri Babes may still get park access

Although public access to Wildcat Lake remains uncertain, the Kitsap Tri Babes may still be able to run, swim and bike their way around the park if they can come to an agreement with the county.

At the end of last year, the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation department recommended the Board of Commissioners close both Wildcat Lake in Seabeck and Horseshoe Lake in South Kitsap for all of 2010 to save the county nearly $140,000, mostly coming from maintenance costs.

Members of the Seabeck-based Tri Babes, a group of more than 300 women who train together and participate in local triathlons, have pleaded their case to leave the park open with county commissioners.

“I think I’ve been petty darn receptive,” County Commissioner Josh Brown said Tuesday during a League of Women Voters luncheon where the issue was addressed.

The group uses the park to practice beginning in late May for the Tri Turtle Tri triathlon event in September. They have used the park since the group’s inception in 2003.

Tri Babe founder Lisa Ballou said she was stunned when she found out the park might close.

“That kind of boggles my mind, where else would we go?”

Brown said he is confident the two parties will be able to reach an agreement of use if the park becomes closed to the public.

“I don’t see a problem accommodating the Tri Babes in letting them train there,” he said

Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dunwiddie and Ballou spoke a month ago and she said he assured her the department would do everything it could to keep the park accessible for the group’s practices on Tuesdays. Ballou said Dunwiddie promised the park would be available for the Tri Turtle Tri triathlon Sept. 12.

“It’s always been the intent to accommodate the group,” he said Tuesday.

Ballou said while she is remaining hopeful the practices will continue, the promise of the main event was a step forward.

“That was very relieving to know that event wouldn’t be jeopardized,” she said. She added that the Dunwiddie and department Superintendent Dori Leckner have been helpful throughout the process. “I have been given no reason to think they will not be accommodating the training. We just haven’t ironed out the details of it yet.”

For the general public, visitors may have to find a different swimming hole come summertime.

Brown said the department presented only one option, the closing of both parks, and he would have liked to see the board presented with alternatives. He said after speaking with community members following news of the recommendation, other options have come to light including charging a nominal fee and having limited hours.

“We did not fully vet our other options, and we’re going to do it now,” he said. He added that a decision by the board on whether or not to close one or both of the parks likely won’t be made until the end of March.

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