Port Commissioners Approve Plan to Purchase Willow Grove Park

By Erik Olson, February 26, 2014, Longview Daily News

Port of Longview commissioners on Tuesday agreed to an option to buy Willow Grove Park from Cowlitz County — for $10.


On a 2-1 vote, commissioners approved a plan to spend $56,700 to help maintain the park this year and agreed to an option to buy the park for $10 in December.


The dollar amount is the same the county paid the port in 1987 to buy the land eventually developed into the park.


Port officials said the will consider making improvements to the park, such as dredging at the boat launch and renovating the aging picnic shelters.


Officials at cash-strapped Cowlitz County approached the port in 2013 about taking over Willow Grove to save money while keeping the park open. County officials said they spend about $181,000 annually to keep the park maintained at a minimal level, and port officials agreed to help share that burden the rest of this year.


“We could keep the park open for the public, and at the same time help the county out,” port CEO Geir Kalhagen said.


Commissioner Bob Bagaason voted against plan, saying the port is locking itself into the park-management businesses too quickly. Also, the port is looking at spending more than $70 million in the next few years to upgrade aging equipment, buildings and docks, and Bagaason said he’s concerned about the port committing itself to the long-term expense of maintaining the park if its ends up buying it in December.


“I do think we’re in a funnel now, and the direction is buying it,” he said.


Commissioner Darold Dietz, who voted for the plan, said the port is not required to pull the trigger on the purchase in December, and the Tuesday resolution is a good first step.


“A year is a good long time to make sure,” he said.


Commissioner Lou Johnson also voted yes.


County officials said much-needed dredging would cost $120,000, and the park desperately need repairs to its shelters.


Cowlitz County has already transferred management of County Line Park to the Port of Wahkiakum, and it’s leaning on volunteer labor to maintain Harry Gardner Park and Riverside Park in Lexington.


County officials are trying to save $250,000 annually to maintain four parks.

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