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Sammamish resident's park gift comes with extra: more land later

By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times
Sammamish has a new park, thanks to a woman who donated 16 acres of forest, wetland and meadow for the project. She also promises to give additional land later, expanding the park to 51 acres.

And, thanks to the woman who donated 16 acres of forest, wetland and meadow, the gift will grow bigger over time.

When philanthropist and longtime Sammamish resident Mary Pigott gave the land to the city last year, she promised she would contribute the remainder of her land in two future installments, expanding the park to 51 acres.

Not many residents have discovered the park since its unheralded "soft opening" in October. But a few have, and when Pigott saw three cars parked at the temporary entrance on New Year's Day, tears came to her eyes.

"The thing that is beyond my expectations is how wonderful it is to see people using the park," Pigott said.

She and her late husband, Roger Giesecke, spent years talking about how best to give away their land for public use — and finally decided, with some outside advice, to make a first donation while they were alive.

Giesecke, who died in 2008, didn't live to see it happen. "I know my husband's smiling at the whole thing," Pigott said. "It would have made him equally happy."

Pigott, 61, donated the first parcel with a few conditions: The park must be used primarily for passive recreation rather than organized sports, no new structure can be built larger than 2,500 square feet, and the park can't be named after her.

Pigott, who declined to be photographed for this story, has pledged to donate an adjacent 20-acre parcel in the next few years and eventually the 15-acre property on which she lives.

The three properties lie between Southeast Eighth and 20th streets in the heart of Sammamish. The entrance to the park — temporarily dubbed Southeast Eighth Street Park — is at Southeast Eighth Street and 218th Avenue Southeast.

Pigott, who once co-owned and operated Rainy Day Books in Issaquah, gave $1 million to the University of Washington in 2008 to support patient care at the UW Medical Center, where her husband was treated, and this year pledged $100,000 to the Redmond/Sammamish Boys & Girls Club's new Sammamish teen center.

The parkland being donated by Pigott is valued by the King County assessor at $3.9 million. Pigott is a descendant of Paccar founder William Pigott Sr. and a cousin of CEO Mark Pigott.

Sammamish officials hope to build a trail connecting the new park with the nearby Sammamish Commons open space next to City Hall.

They are negotiating final details of a deal under which the 110-plus-year-old Reard/Freed House will be moved by the Sammamish Heritage Society to the next piece of land Pigott has pledged to give to the city.

The house could become part of a future exhibit showing what life was like on the Sammamish Plateau in previous centuries.

For Parks director Jessi Richardson, it all began a few years ago with a phone call. "This is Mary Pigott," the caller said, "and I want to talk to you about donating some land."

"I don't think in my career I'll ever get a call like that again," Richardson said.

Preparing the park for public use wasn't difficult, Richardson said, because Pigott had already built trails and had kept a house and metal-clad barn in excellent condition.

Volunteers came for several work parties, the largest a group of 180 Mormons who in September weeded, planted flower bulbs, spread gravel and improved wood fences. A few weeks later the park opened.

"Amazing, huh?" Richardson asked Friday as she led a tour along a wood-chip trail through a Douglas fir forest. "It's one of those don't-fix-what's-not-broken type situations."

Pending completion of a master plan for the park, Richardson said, the house in the woods might be used for meetings, senior gatherings, art classes and rentals. "The sky's the limit."

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