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City Connections
April 2012 E-News

In this issue:

Working to keep the Volunteer Park Conservatory open
Volunteer Park Conservatory

The Conservatory is a beloved facility celebrating its Centennial this year. For the last 100 years, the Conservatory has been a fixture in Volunteer Park and is home to an incredible collection of plants.

The structure consists of five unique "houses"—the Bromeliad, Palm, Fern, Seasonal Display, and Cactus—with temperatures ranging from the upper 60s to the low 80s. Yes, it's true; we can access tropical temperatures right now, without waiting in the security line at SeaTac Airport!

This amenity has been in the news lately. It's rumored that the City is closing the facility. Truth be told, the Conservatory has been on the 'list' for budget reductions for the last several years. When revenues are dwindling, even beloved facilities like the Conservatory are up for discussion. That's because it is an expensive facility: It costs about $400,000 to operate annually and only brings in about $30,000 in revenue. Based on those numbers of over 11:1 cost to revenues, it's an easy target for budget cuts.

plants in the Conservatory

But, easy does not always mean right.

I think it's fair to say that no one, especially me, wants to see the Conservatory close. I have a January/February ritual of going to the Conservatory to appreciate the fragrances and relish the tropical warmth. I love keeping the Seattle gray away for an hour. Thousands of others make a similar pilgrimage to Volunteer Park. And this is why the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has taken steps to try to identify some creative solutions to keep the Conservatory's doors open.

Earlier this year, DPR hired Richard Daley (Yes, that is his name. He hails from Arizona, not Chicago.) to look at how other cities operate their Conservatories. Daley has been conducting interviews and doing comparisons in hopes of identifying ways for the Conservatory to reduce costs as well as raise revenue. That report is due back to DPR within the coming weeks and we will have a briefing at our Parks and Neighborhood Committee.

I look forward to learning more about the opportunities that will allow the Conservatory to remain open today and for the next 100 years.

people in the Conservatory

To learn more about the Conservatory:

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Did You Know?

The standard location for storm drains is seven feet south, or west, of the right-of-way centerline.

Manholes are required every 375 feet, and must be placed in all intersections to allow for future extensions into side streets.

Seattle has about 23% tree canopy cover.

Sources here and here.

How do I start a conversation about Neighborhood Greenways in my neighborhood?

A group of dedicated volunteers have created a website that they use to share information. Here’s the site where you can find out about
meet-ups and other resources.

Thanks to the Scan Design Foundation, UW Green Future Lab, and Gehl Architects from Copenhagen for this great resource.

people in the Conservatory

Spring has sprung and so have the wallabys!

Two little joeys have been born in recent months at the Woodland Park Zoo.

The 5-month old can be seen in this image.

Pop Quiz: How well do YOU know Seattle parks?

See answers at the end of the newsletter.

  • Which Seattle parks started out as military bases?
  • What are Seattle's ten largest parks?
  • With how many partner organizations does the Department of Parks and Recreation work?
  • In which park is the "Sadako and the Thousand Cranes" sculpture?
  • What Seattle park sits on the site of West Seattle pioneers Ferdinand and Emma Schmitz's homestead? Bonus points: What does the park name mean?

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Budgeting for parks during economic hard times

First, the good news: In the past 15 years, Seattle voters have expressed their support for Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) by passing two levies to the tune of $400 million, the 2000 Pro Parks Levy and the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy, primarily for capital acquisitions. That tells us loud and clear that Seattlelites are generous and love our parks system.

The more difficult news is that as the recession caught up to our region the past few years, Seattle's General Fund has taken a beating. Revenues from the sales tax, B&O, and others that support the General Fund have been down for several years in a row.

Roughly two-thirds of DPR's operating revenues come from our General Fund - roughly nine percent of the General Fund.


Charts: 2012 General Fund Allocations, and percentage of DPR funded by General Fund as opposed to Revenue.

The bottom line: When the General Fund takes a hit, DPR, including our community centers, swimming pools, boating facilities, and everything in between, is squeezed.

Years of belt-tightening

To balance the 2009-2011 budgets, DPR cut $10.2 million from the department budget—10% of the department budget in 2010, and another 3% in 2011. That's a whopping 13% reduction overall.

For those two budget years, DPR had to make difficult and often unpopular decisions, working with staff, managers, directors and neighborhoods. 103 FTE (Full Time Employee) staff reductions were incurred, including layoffs, reduced hours, reclassifications, and transfers.

Staff took unpaid furloughs and many workers' hours were reduced; many wading pools closed; field fees increased; the Carkeek Environmental Learning Center (ELC) was impacted; special gardens staff at Volunteer Park and the Japanese gardens were reduced; paint and metal shop staffing was reduced; and one of three tree crews was eliminated.

More cuts happened last year, too. For the 2012 budget that was adopted last November, DPR took an additional 28.8 FTE reduction from 2011, reducing Planning and Development and transferring Special Events staff to the Office of Economic Development. We changed the community center management system to a geographically "tiered" model, so every neighborhood has access to wanted programs, while addressing the required budget reductions.

Getting creative about sustainable long-term funding

One of our top priorities is to identify sustainable funding sources for parks for the long term. Last fall, we adopted SLI 83-1-A-1, which requires DPR to consider funding options that will carry us through both good and bad economic times. DPR's approach to this SLI is two-fold: examining the service levels within all of DPR's departments, and creating a Parks Preservation Working Group. This group will examine efficiencies from ways to generate new revenue to analyzing lines of business. The group will hold its first meeting on April 20th and we expect this to be the start of a very robust public conversation.

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Apply for a Department of Neighborhood's Large Project Fund Grant

Have a project that you'd like to make happen in your neighborhood? Here is a great opportunity to obtain critical funding! First, you MUST attend a workshop in order to qualify. Make the meeting, get your chance.

At the workshop, attendees will get an overview of the Neighborhood Matching Fund, learn about the new Large Projects Fund application process, and hear from other city departments about requirements. (For those of you who have applied in the past, please note, letters of intent (LOI) are no longer required.)

Interested applicants only have to attend one of the workshops to apply to the Large Projects Fund:

  • Thursday, April 19; 5:45 – 7:45 p.m.
  • Douglass Truth Library, 2300 E Yesler Way

  • Tuesday, April 24; 5:45 – 7:45 p.m.
  • Greenwood Library, 8016 Greenwood Ave N

  • Saturday, April 28. 10 a.m. – 12 noon
  • Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW

Applications for the Large Fund are due July 16, 2012. Good Luck!
For more information, visit the Neighborhood Matching Fund site.

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Give your community a presence online

So you've decided that you want to use an online tool for your neighborhood or community group. Or maybe you just want to start using social networking for the first time and you're overwhelmed. What now?

Check out this link which will help you sort through all of your options.

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Hank Ranks: Denny Park Off-Leash Area
dog Hank

Our canine correspondent rates
the City's off-leash dog parks.

bone bone bone half bone
Ranking: 4 out of 5 bones

Denny Park, 100 Dexter Avenue North in the north-central sector, off John Street

I've often admired the urban forest at Denny Park and have longed for the opportunity to roam free amongst the old trees, and perhaps even leave my mark on them. Now, thanks to some creative planning, my dream has become reality! I am so excited that I, and all of my South Lake Union (SLU) doggie friends and their humans, now have a place to play, leash-free, at Denny Park.

Change is a constant for Denny Park. In fact, the land was originally donated to the City by the Denny family for the purpose of a cemetery. Almost two decades later, in 1883, it was rededicated as park land, and has been a park ever since. The park itself is heavily influenced by Olmstead design, but is not an officially designated Olmstead park (kind of like a purebred without AKC papers).

The newly created, temporary, off-leash-area, which opened March 30, is .105 acres of fenced-in fun for me and my four-legged, furry friends. I love the way the granolithic gravel dust trails behind me as I travel at mach speed across the open area. I am a fairly little guy by dog standards, so the four-foot fence is an adequate barrier to keep me from exploring outside of the Off Leash Area (OLA). And the aroma that emanates from the tall firs is intoxicating.

In my canine opinion, the OLA is a fabulous addition to Denny Park. It activates an otherwise underutilized, much loved, and well-cared for urban park. More people in the park make it safer and more inviting for everyone — dogs and people alike.

dog park

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Pop Quiz Answers
  1. Which Seattle parks started out as military bases?
  2. Discovery Park, Lake Union Park, Magnuson Park, and Burke-Gilman Playground. The declaration by the U.S. Army of Seattle's Fort Lawton as surplus in the mid-1960s set the stage for a new tool that would allow cities to gain parklands. Senator Henry Jackson (D-WA) drafted legislation that provided the basis for the current-day National Park Service, Federal Lands to Parks Program. This program permitted surplus federal lands to be made available to local authorities at little or no cost for park and recreation uses.

  3. What are Seattle's ten largest parks?
  4. In order:

    1. Discovery Park
    2. Magnuson Park
    3. Seward Park
    4. Carkeek Park
    5. Washington Park Arboretum
    6. Lincoln Park
    7. Westcrest Park
    8. Woodland Park
    9. Green Lake Park
    10. Camp Long
  5. With how many partner organizations does the Department of Parks and Recreation work?
  6. Over 200. DPR works with community organizations, individuals, corporations, non-profits, and "Friends of…" groups. Examples include the Museum of History & Industry, the Seattle School District, the Mountaineers, the Green Seattle Partnership, and Friends of Athletic Fields. For information on how to partner with parks, see Parks Partnerships.

  7. In which park is the "Sadako and the Thousand Cranes" sculpture?
  8. Peace Park (NE Pacific St. and NE 40th St., in the University District). Dr. Floyd Schmoe won the Hiroshima Peace Prize in 1998 and used the $5,000 prize money to clear a small lot near the University of Washington. He and community volunteers cleared wrecked cars, garbage, and brush to create the beautiful Peace Park. The Sadako and the Thousand Cranes sculpture was created in 1990 by artist Daryl Smith. The statue is a life-size bronze of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who survived the Hiroshima bombing, but died of radiation sickness at age 12.

  9. What Seattle park sits on the site of West Seattle pioneers Ferdinand and Emma Schmitz's homestead? Bonus points: What does the park name mean?
  10. Me-Kwa-Mooks, meaning "shaped like a bear's head" and pronounced sbuh-KWAH-buks in the Nisqually dialect, is what the Duwamish tribe called the West Seattle peninsula when European-American settlers landed at Alki in 1851. This park is across the street from the from the Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook and is known for providing a secluded respite from busy Alki for West Seattlites in the summer.

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