History: Then and Now

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 to provide park and recreation services on the Gig Harbor Peninsula. 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 the 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 supermajority (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 just 12 acres of park property. In 2005, the District hired its first full-time employee, an Executive Director. Its first adopted annual 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. In October 2019, the administration and recreation office relocated at 5717 Wollochet Drive Northwest #3 Gig Harbor, Washington.

In December of 2023, the Administrative Headquarters relocated again to its current location at 2416 14th Ave NW, Gig Harbor. Also in 2023,  PenMet Parks administered nearly 130,000 hours of recreation programs to people of all ages and abilities. Currently, there are several capital improvement projects underway throughout the District, including construction of the PenMet Parks Recreation Center. Today, PenMet Parks manages 22 parks and properties, totaling nearly 650 acres of parkland in the District. Learn more about the District’s performance by reading the 2023 Annual Report.