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City Connections
May 2013 E-News

In this issue:

Volunteer Park

Postcard of Volunteer Park, 1909, from the Seattle Municipal Archives Flickr photostream.

Long Term Funding for Seattle Parks and Recreation

Whether you work on budgets at a municipality or around your kitchen table, we all know the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008. "Reductions" was a frequent directive for all departments and staff. The mindset was to find ways to cut while preserving essential services.

This was the environment I came into when I took office in 2010. I have never in my professional life experienced a budget where adding services (or "making adds") played a prominent role. We may shift or redirect funds, but I have not had the luxury of making adds in any of the budgets I have helped balance.

Since taking office, I have had the honor of having the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) in my committee portfolio. Every year I have watched DPR follow the line of "do more with less". And they have.

They have cut millions from their budget. I have wondered how long we can continue down this path. It often felt like we were at the mercy of the economy. I wanted to be more proactive rather than just reactive.

So I took steps during the 2011 budget process and developed a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) 83-1-A-1, which asked DPR to look at long term funding options. Even if our economy rebounded and brought us back to the bounty of 2007 levels, I knew status quo was not an option. We needed to do things differently.

In SLI 83-1-A-1, Council asked DPR to look into the future, to look at ways to stabilize their funding, to explore potential new sources of ongoing revenue for parks operations. We have a world renowned park system; we don't want to sacrifice our parks during times of economic hardship. Some type of consistency is needed to maintain what we have.
The original timeline for this SLI was to have a preliminary report back to Council by June 30, 2012, with the final report due by January 2, 2013. After DPR began examining funding options, they soon realized the complexities before them and that this body of work was much bigger than anticipated.
After several conversations about this SLI, we all concluded it would take more time. An extension was granted, and DPR submitted their response to the SLI on February 20, 2013. We discussed the report at the Parks and Neighborhood Committee on April 4th, 2013.

DPR broadened their approach. To truly look at long-term funding options, DPR needed to have an in-depth understanding about the service levels they offered as well as cost for services. Having a firm grasp on these details and these financials allowed them to have a more honest conversation about their department, their mission-now and into the future-and about funding. This thinking was the catalyst behind the Legacy Plan, which I talk about next.

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October 7, 2013

Try This

Visit Seattle Parks' Flickr photo stream.

Join me and Council President Sally J Clark for the next Coffee with the Sallys. June 1 we'll be at Cafe Racer from 9-11 in the University District.

Follow Bertha, the world's largest-diameter tunneling machine, here in Seattle to start digging the SR 99 tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, on Twitter at @BerthaDigsSR99.

Links
In other blogs

Visit Parkways, the Department of Parks and Recreation's blog, or sign up to receive it as an RSS feed.

Keep up with the Department of Neighborhoods on their blog Front Porch.

 

DPR Parks Legacy Plan

The voters of Seattle are a generous bunch and we have passed several park levies over the years: the 1999 Community Centers Levy ($36 million), the 2000 Pro Parks Levy ($198.2 million), and the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy ($146 million), which brought community centers and new parks across our city.

The new parks are wonderful, but we have a backlog of deferred maintenance across our city that exceeds $260M.

The 2008 Parks and Green Spaces levy focused on acquisition and development, and deliberately omitted operations and maintenance. That was a mistake. Thanks to funding from the 2008 levy, 88 projects are now on the way or completed. Parks has renovated 23 playgrounds, created two new parks on the top of lidded reservoirs, added four skate parks, four spray parks, and two new off-leash dog areas, restored 605 acres of forest land, added 9.6 acres of park land.

I am proud of the wonderful new acquisitions but we can't afford to continue down that path. Operation and maintenance are necessities that must be addressed.

I have said repeatedly that if we go before our voters with another ask for parks funding, we must have our house in order. We need to know how much each park costs to operate, how the public believes our parks serve their needs, where can we change, and what we should fund. These are all important questions and the answers are needed before we move forward with a possible ballot measure.

I often ask DPR how much it costs to operate and maintain a field for one hour. I ask because these are the details we need to know before any ask is made. We need to know what services we are offering and how much those services costs.
Department of Parks and Recreation agrees. And that is the premise behind the Legacy Plan.

When DPR was working on their response to SLI about long-term funding, they realized there were bigger questions at hand. Rather than strictly focus on funding sources, they wanted to delve further and ask about services, today's as well as those that might be offered in the future. How can DPR best position itself to respond to changing economies and emerging trends? What lines of businesses are we offering? Which are niche markets and which are saturated? And so the Legacy Plan was created.

Over the last several months, internal staff has been meeting regularly to define the scope of this plan. It is really a strategic plan that will guide DPR for the next five to ten years. After many meetings, even more questions, and a few drafts, DPR has released this plan. As important as internal staff is, it is imperative that the public weigh in and share their thoughts, your thoughts!

I have been out and about in the last month or so, attending District Councils and Commission, letting people know about this exercise and asking how we can engage you. The more eyes on this document and the more voices heard the better.

I am thankful for all of those who have worked tirelessly drafting this document. I will be even more grateful if you would weigh in as well.

Please read the Legacy Plan. We are conducting a very robust public involvement effort to get your feedback. Here is the schedule of remaining public meetings:

  • Monday, May 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. SENIORS, TEENS INCLUDING LGBT, COMMUNITY CENTERS AND ASSOCIATED RECREATION COUNCIL (ARC)
    Northgate Community Center
    10510 5th Ave. NE
  • Thursday, May 16 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.: ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS, OPEN SPACE
    AND MAINTENANCE
    Jefferson Community Center
    3801 Beacon Ave. S
  • Tuesday, May 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.: GENERAL MEETING
    Dakota Place Park Building
    4304 SW Dakota St.
  • Wednesday, May 22 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.: IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE COMMUNITIES
    South Shore K-8 School
    4800 S Henderson St.

 

If you can't make it to a meeting but want to comment on the draft plan can send email to parkslegacy@seattle.gov.

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Opportunity Fund Status Update

The Levy Oversight Committee held a public hearing on Monday, April 22; on May 20 the Committee will issue its recommendations for which projects should be funded.

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25 Years of Neighborhood Matching Funds

It was 25 years ago when Seattle embarked on something that was so unique that, soon, cities across the world would replicate it. That something was the Neighborhood Matching Fund.

Twenty-five years later, the program is still a success. It allows communities the chance to implement their vision in their neighborhood. The program, unique to Seattle, helps make our city even more unique.

If you have an idea, think about using the various programs within the Neighborhood Matching Fund. And here's hoping for another successful 25 years!

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Hank Ranks: Lower Kinnear Park Dog Park

Hank RnaksOur canine correspondent rates the City's off-leash dog parks.
bonebone
Ranking: 2 out of 5 bones if you don't live on Queen Anne

bonebonebonebone

4 out of 5 bones if you do.

 

Thanks to funding from the Parks and Green Spaces Levy, and countless volunteer hours from humans, the Lower Kinnear Off Leash Area (OLA) opened on February 24, 2013 and I'd been looking forward to checking out the sights, sounds and, of course, smells.

I had to put on my patience pants as my humans had a bit of trouble finding an entrance to the park.

After a time around a block or two, we discovered an entrance off of Roy Street. It's a bit of a hike to the OLA. A stone, gravel path weaves through a greenbelt. The path is steep in some areas and becomes slippery, even in dry weather. No problem for us four-legged types. Difficult for bipeds. So be sure your humans wear shoes that provide good support.

I sniffed as many new plantings and giant old trees I could get my nose on and before I knew it, we were at the OLA. The 5,400 square foot, corral-shaped area is fully-surrounded by a four-foot fence. No holes for my Houdini ways. I entered through the double gate and took in the aroma of the fairly new wood chip surface and other doggie delights.

It's a cozy park. Not like the ones I'm used to - Marymoor, Genesee. In fact, it's not much bigger than my yard in Georgetown. Yet, nothing beats being untethered and having some room to run. So this space is perfect for all of the apartment dogs who live on lower West Queen Anne Hill. The OLA provides my density-living doggie pals a "backyard experience" and their humans don't have to drive to it or struggle to find parking in an RPZ area.

If you want to check out the park, but don't live close to it, I recommend you visit either after business hours or on a weekend. This way you can park in the lot behind Queen Anne Upholstery at the end of West Mercer Street at 904 Elliott Avenue West.

Also, be sure to bring bottled water and some doggie baggies. The OLA does not have plumbing.

As always, be sure to stay on leash before and after you go to the OLA. It keeps us, and our humans, safe.

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Parks Projects Update

Neighborhood Matching Fund: Small and Simple March Cycle. Six projects were recently awarded funding:

  • Loyal Heights Emergency Preparedness
  • Interim Youth Basketball at 33rd Avenue NE
  • Broadway Hill P-Patch
  • AGE UP (All Girl Everything) program will support a program for boys to help them become thoughtful, skilled and motivated young men
  • Lewis Park design development and geotechnical survey
  • Children's Playgarden; install art piece: Trimpin's Musical Fence Art Project

 

Maple Leaf Reservoir Park and Maple Leaf Play Area Renovation. The community planting party and play equipment install was very successful. We started the day with cloudy skies that soon turned to a morning of rain and we ended with sunshine. Everyone persevered and the intrepid planters finished everything in one day!

 

Maple Leaf

 

McGilvra Place Renovation. The final tasks are complete and the project was ready in time for late-April celebration. The Bullitt Foundation supplied beautiful wood art benches designed by Meyer Wells. The image below shows two of the benches in the new pedestrian terrace that used to be 15th Ave. NE.

 

McGilvra Place

 

19th and Madison. The Friends of 19th and Madison have had two public meetings to develop a new pocket park. The main desired uses neighborhood members described include being a part of a string of little green spaces along Madison Street, acting as a “cut- through” from Madison Street to 19th, and using this cut-through to introduce people to the park and perhaps stop for lunch. There was discussion of a food cart on site and potentially a food truck on the street.

Seward Park - Torii Gate Project. The consultant for the project is Murase Associations; Parks has held two public meetings and has reviewed four options internally. Four potential sites were reviewed and the original site was approved. The last public meeting was on April 23, 2013.

Roxhill Castle. I blogged about this: After a five-year volunteer-powered effort, the Roxhill Park was renovated through a partnership between neighbors, the Parks Department, Department of Neighborhoods and a number of local businesses.  Roxhill now has a new skatepark, a fabulous new play area equipped with a castle, and plenty of play spaces with great plantings and an adjoining experiential wetlands (motto: “For Peat's sake).

 

Baby in swing

 

Lewis Park. The Friends of Lewis Park has selected Hafs-Epstein to be the consultant for the design of the park. The schematic design was approved by the community on March 19, 2013. Previous to the actual work at the public meeting, the Friends of Lewis Park coordinated a Food of Beacon Hill event with local restaurants who donated food ranging from Mexican to Filipino to Happy Hour style sandwiches.

Hubbard Homestead Park: Skatespot.  Staff has requested award of a construction contract for this project to T. F. Sahli Construction of Burien. The contract will be valued at $320,288. Notice to Proceed with construction will be issued in conjunction with the Contractor's obtaining substantial completion on the Highland Park Spray Park Project.

Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands Restoration. Parks' Master Use Permit intake was successful and will require City Council approval after DPD presents a recommendation. Partner Seattle Tilth set up a work party on April 27, 2013 for all folks involved in the design process.

 

Rainier Farm

 

Magnuson Park - Burke Gilman Asphalt Removal. SCC removed an asphalt trail that had been torn up by tree roots at Magnuson Park. They replaced the trail with an ADA accessible gravel path.

Magnuson Park Animal Habitat. SCC finished five animal habitats at Magnuson Park. Three are built with large and small boulders and two were built from stumps, logs and tree branches. They are located at the south end parking lot at the end of 65th. There is a new trail to observe the new homes for many animal species found in the area, including reptiles, small mammals, birds and other critters.

 

Beacon Hill Food Forest


Beacon Food Forest. SCC finished work at the Beacon Food Forest, a great new urban agriculture site on 15th S and S Dakota near Jefferson Park. The crew installed silt fence and stripped the sod out of the trail and garden areas, which they used to build raised planting areas for the volunteers to garden. Then they excavated 150 yards of earth and built terraces throughout the garden areas. They placed logs and boulders in the play area and built a 1,200 foot trail through the food forest to the community garden terraced area.

This is the seventh garden that SCC has built for the Department of Neighborhoods. It brings in revenue for the program, provides great skills training for program participants and creates beautiful new garden sites for communities all over the city. Thanks so much to Department of Neighborhoods for their support of the Seattle Conservation Corps.

 

Landscaping

 

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Seattle Conservation Corps Success Stories

Three SCC graduates found work, one as a welder for a metal manufacturer, one as a warehouseman and one as a laborer for a local landscaping company. Congratulations to all!

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