Vancouver strikes deal to buy park land from schools

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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photoZachary Kaufman/The Columbian The city has leased the 2.4 acre John Ball Park since 1959 from Vancouver Public Schools. It is set to buy the property for $417,500.

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Visit John Ball Park’s website at:

http://cityofvancouver.us/parks-recreation/parks_trails/parks/johnball.asp.

John Ball Park will soon roll onto the list of city-owned parks.

Vancouver plans to buy the 2.4-acre park in the Hough neighborhood from the Vancouver Public Schools for $417,500.

The city has leased the land from the district since 1959, and has maintained and operated it as a park since then. Vancouver will use Park Impact Fees -- a mandatory charge assessed to developers that can be used only to develop parks or buy park land -- to pay for the purchase.

The school district declared the property at West 23rd Street and Kauffman Avenue as surplus, meaning Vancouver had to buy the land or risk seeing it sold to another buyer for nonpark use, Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Director Pete Mayer said Friday.

“The city permanently acquired the property to secure it as a park for future generations,” Mayer said.

The park is named after early pioneer John Ball, who overwintered at Fort Vancouver in 1832 and was one of the area’s earliest schoolteachers.

In the last few years, the city has received more than $73,000 in grants to renovate the park. Facilities include play equipment, picnic tables and an open lawn area.

The Hough Neighborhood Association’s Co-chairwoman Eileen Cowan said she wasn’t aware that the city didn’t already own the land. But she was glad to hear it that it will remain a focal point in her neighborhood.

“We love it,” Cowan said. “We’re excited to keep it as a park -- it’s a big center and used very, very often by very many people.”

The school district and the city settled on the sale price after an appraisal, Mayer said.

“Both the district and the city are satisfied with that rate,” he said. “It reflects the market rate today, which is significantly less than what it was four years ago.”

The Vancouver Public Schools Board has already approved the purchase. The purchase will go before the Vancouver City Council for approval before the deal is signed.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall;andrea.damewood@columbian.com.