Parc Olympia, the school plan has more than 800 parking spaces

The Yelm Highway Community Park land, located at 3323 Yelm Highway, was purchased in 2018 and is where Spooner Berry Farms currently has a U-Pick strawberry farm.

The Yelm Highway Community Park land, located at 3323 Yelm Highway, was purchased in 2018 and is where Spooner Berry Farms currently has a U-Pick strawberry farm.

Courtesy of the City of Olympia

After three years of collecting public feedback on a new urban park next to the Yelm Freeway, a master plan has been developed. And with a targeted opening date of 2025, Olympia is set to have dedicated grounds for a variety of sports.

Olympia City Council recently heard a presentation on the Yelm Highway Community Park Master Plan, led by Parks Planning and Design Manager Laura Keehan. The plan includes a soccer field, cycling skills area, basketball courts and more on the 86 acres.

But some council members were taken aback by the size of the car parks at the park and the adjacent secondary school on the site.

The plan proposes a total of 880 parking spaces, which includes the school’s campus parking lot which is expected to be built in 10 to 20 years. The city offers 390 park spaces and the Olympia School District wants 490 shared high school spaces. The first batch will cost just under $1 million, with a total of nearly $2.5 million spent on parking lots.

Council member Lisa Parshley objected to the size of the parking lot as well as the footprint of the future high school, promoting construction, not destruction.

Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Priddy said the school’s construction is a long way off, so the design could easily change. But it is expected to be at least two floors high. She said nearly 500 parking spaces are required based on Chapter 20.44 of the county’s zoning code.

According to this code, for high schools and higher education establishments, 1 parking space is required per class and office, as well as 1 space for 10 students. The school should accommodate 1,400 pupils, which requires 140 places.

Yelm Highway Master Plan1024_1.jpg
City of Olympia

Pro-Tem Mayor Clark Gilman said the number of parking spaces is surprising unless the parks department is planning on holding field concerts or something similar. He suggested designing the lot so that it could easily be turned into something else in the future.

Board member Jim Cooper said the board was told the new high school would be a walking campus when they discussed the partnership. He would like the number of places to be reduced to encourage walking and the use of public transport. Cooper said he would like the city to mitigate the loss of working farmland as well, as that is what the land was originally and is now home to Spooner’s Berry Farms.

Parks Superintendent Paul Simmons said the city is still looking to preserve urban farmland and the strawberry stand will be able to stay until the school is built.

The school district will share parking with the public outside of school hours and on weekends. It will also share a publicly accessible tennis court, community gym and athletics track.

Keehan told The Olympian plans could change and smaller parking areas could be built. But it ultimately comes down to county zoning codes. The first phase of the joint project is estimated at approximately $21 million and the final phase at nearly $15 million.

Naomi C. Amerson