The 1994 Gig Harbor/Key Peninsula Comprehensive Park Recreation and Open Space Plan recommended a metropolitan park district model for providing parks and recreation in the area. The original metropolitan park district law, enacted in 1907, had produced only one sustained metropolitan park district during the 20th century, Metro Parks Tacoma. State legislation was passed in 2002 enabling the formation of metropolitan park districts in unincorporated areas.
The Peninsula Metropolitan Park District was formed on May 18, 2004 by a vote of the people on the Gig Harbor peninsula, outside the City of Gig Harbor.
The Park District provides for the management, control, improvements, maintenance, and acquisition of parks and recreation facilities within the area of unincorporated Pierce County west of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and east of the Purdy Bridge (excluding the City of Gig Harbor).
Prior to 2004, a park and recreation district existed but had no taxing authority aside from what it could obtain through voter approved initiative. This district was formed in 1984. During that period, 15 bond or levy measures received a strong majority of support (55-59%) yet fell short of the super majority (60%) necessary for approval. One $6.5 Million bond measure was approved to develop Sehmel Homestead Park but a companion maintenance levy failed with only 59% of the vote and as a consequence, the park development bonds could not be sold.
The legislative changes enabling the formation of metropolitan park districts in unincorporated areas enabled the new Peninsula Metropolitan Park District (PenMet Parks) to issue $6.5 Million in park development bonds for improving Sehmel Homestead Park and provide funding through property taxes for maintenance, operations and additional improvement projects for other District park properties. The metropolitan park district funding will provide further development of a comprehensive park system for the community.
In 2004 the District managed 12 acres of park property. The PenMet Parks District park system currently includes 595 acres of park land. In 2005 the District hired its first full-time employee, an Executive Director. Its first adopted budget was approximately $250,000 funded entirely through zoo/trek/park sales tax. By April 2005, the District had its first administrative office and by September 2005, hired its second employee to manage its financial operations. In 2006, the District began its first collection of property tax enabling it to fund capital projects and on-going maintenance and operations. Its present administrative office is located at 10123 78th Ave NW at Sehmel Homestead Park in Gig Harbor, Washington.