Closing will be by June 27, with $400,000 base of donations already in hand, but more needed

LYNDEN ­— More than a year’s effort will keep 136-year-old public school property along Glenning Street in public ownership after all.

The Lynden City Council on Monday approved buying the two-block open-space parcel from the Lynden School District for $1.45 million.

At least $400,000 of that amount has already been raised by a volunteer Glenning Schoolyard Committee and will be paid to the city by closing of the sale on June 27. The amount of money pledged by the group is closer to $540,000 and could still rise. It’s now up to an ongoing community campaign to raise the balance to get to $1.05 million over the next two years.

The city itself will contribute $200,000 and another $200,000 is included in a Lynden Regional Parks and Recreation District bond coming to voters in November.

In agreement with the school district spells out terms that could allow the city to sell off a portion of the acreage if somehow the money for full purchase cannot be raised by 2021.

Lynden School District Superintendent Jim Frey had already signed off on the Purchase and Sale Agreement that was before the City Council Monday.

This 3.99-acre property bounded by Sixth, Eighth, Glenning and Edson streets goes back in Lynden history to 1883 as nearly the first public school site for the community’s children. It was donated by town founders Holden and Phoebe Judson. Over the years until the early 1980s, when a new Lynden High School was built, it had school buildings on it. Cleared, it was used as recreation space for Lynden Middle School students from across Main Street.

Upon construction of a new middle school in 2017-18, this property was declared surplus to be sold. In spring 2018 an effort headed by community member Harlan Kredit made a case for keeping the land, built support and lined up cash pledges. The Lynden School Board saw enough commitment to agree to sell to the city at the $1.45 million appraisal price. The money is needed for other educational purposes.

Already in February this year, Kredit told a meeting of the City Council that about $400,000 had been pledged by about 22 key backers. Kredit said on May 30 that the pledged amount was at about $530,000. 

Fundraising will continue through the Whatcom Community Foundation. In fact, the opportunity is already presented on the foundation website under the heading “Save the Schoolyard.” Giving can be online or by mail to Whatcom Community Foundation, 1500 Cornwall Ave., Suite 202, Bellingham, WA 98225.

Mauri Ingram of the foundation said contributions will continue to be accepted to the full-purchase goal. She emphasized that “major gift fundraising” of the type that built the $400,000 base is ongoing as well.

The city has been doing an environmental review of the property for soils and any groundwater contamination. The district is unaware of any such complicating issues.

The city has no definite plans for the property, nor money designated to  do anything in particular with it. The agreement, effective through 2021, says it must “be held for park purposes” for at least two years. The discussion of the last year and a half has been that it should be acquired for the future in its “green space” state for public uses still to be determined.

Church, school and community groups and individuals now use the Glenning open fields and limited ball diamonds and basketball courts frequently and freely.

The closing on the property, by agreement, must be by June 27. The sale will be “fee simple.”