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The View From Denny Park

News and Views From The Superintendent
No. 21 November 7, 2001
A periodic electronic newsletter about Parks and Recreation news, programs, projects and events from Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ken Bounds


We've taken an important step in the transition to non-profit management of the Woodland Park Zoo. Last week, I sent to the City Council a draft agreement between the City and the Woodland Park Zoo Society on the future operations and management of the Zoo.

Under the proposed 20-year agreement, the City would still own the Zoo, and the Zoo Society would manage it under a contract. The City would also continue to provide annual public funding, including the $2.5 million earmarked for the Zoo for each year of the eight-year Pro Parks Levy.

The agreement is part of a national trend. Declining public financial support, coupled with stringent standards for animal care, make non-profit management an ideal model for zoo operations. Non-profit organizations now operate more than 60% of city-owned zoos in the country. This allows zoos more efficiency in operations and more flexibility in fund-raising. At the same time it enables cities to stabilize their financial support for zoos.

In 1995, Mayor Norm Rice appointed the 50-member Zoo Commission II, which concluded that dual management of the Zoo was cumbersome and duplicative. Of the 388 current Zoo staff members, 229 are City employees and 159 are Zoo Society employees. The commission recommended unifying management under the non-profit Zoo Society.

Over the past decade, the Woodland Park Zoo Society has become integral to Zoo operations, contributing more than $20 million to support new exhibits and educational programs. In addition to its annual support, the Zoo Society is committed to generating another $60 million for ongoing needs for animal exhibits, education programs and support facilities.

In reaching the agreement Parks staff and the Zoo Society have worked closely with Zoo employees, especially those represented by unions, to develop a plan of transition from City employment to Zoo Society employment.

The draft agreement also lays out a series of important performance standards and financial audits and safeguards to ensure sound fiscal management and public accountability, and contains "safety valves" to ensure both parties meet contract requirements.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the agreement on Monday, December 3, 5:30 p.m., in Council Chambers, 11th floor, Municipal Building, 600 4th Ave.

To read a copy of the draft agreement, please visit and click on "What's New" and then "Projects and Plans."

Higher utility costs and declining tax revenue have combined to create a major budget problem for the City of Seattle for 2002 and possibly beyond.

Unfortunately, this means cuts in programs and services supported by the City's "General Fund." The General Fund pays for police, fire, library, health, parks and recreation and other critical services.

This week, I submitted $1.4 million in budget cuts to the Mayor for his consideration. Although earlier this year we were able to absorb $1.3 million in utility costs without significantly affecting services, the new $1.4 million in cuts ultimately do have an impact. Reductions include $510,000 in administrative costs and efficiencies; $160,000 in Zoo expenses; $258,000 in recreation expenses; $255,000 in park and facility maintenance costs and $317,000 in other areas.

The major reduction in community recreation is eliminating Sunday operations at all community centers except for six (plus selected others during basketball season), and scaling back Saturday operations during the summer months.

As the Mariners struggled for their playoff lives on the East Coast last month, six crews from Seattle Parks and Recreation's Green Lake and Mt. Baker rowing programs were excelling at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta held on Boston's Charles River October 20 and 21.

Think Opening Day along the Montlake Cut in Seattle-then imagine the same kind of competition and excitement for an additional two miles of racing course. The total length of the Charles River course is a demanding 3.2 miles. Green Lake's Youth Men's 8 crew (19 and under) finished the highest of any local boats, winning a medal for its fourth place time among 44 entrants. In the process, the crew beat out freshman teams from Yale, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania. The Mt. Baker Rowing crew finished 34th in the same race.

In other results, Green Lake's Men's Club 8 finished 26th of 67 entrants; the Women's Club 4 finished 37th of 58, and the Light Women's 4 finished 14th of 16. Mt. Baker's Youth Women's 8 finished 16th of 36.

Congratulations to one and all!

Seattle Parks and Recreation received a highly competitive federal grant last month to expand the play area at Pratt Park.

The U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service awarded a $245,000 Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) grant to the department to add amenities to the play area project that would otherwise have not been possible, such as a swing set, considerably more ADA improvements, larger play structures and a play area plaza. Construction on the play area began in mid-October and will be complete by February 2002.

Seattle's application was selected from 187 proposals requesting $55.2 million from cities and counties throughout the United States.

The Seattle Aquarium is the temporary home to a rare tropical sea turtle that was found on a beach near Ocean Shores in early October. Named "Arial" by Aquarium staff, the 67-pound female sea turtle was suffering from a broken shell and dehydration.

Dr. Janis Joslin of the Woodland Park Zoo is directing the delicate rehabilitation effort, which consists of gradually warming the turtle, treating wounds, and administering fluids, antibiotics, vitamins and food. The good news is that Arial is responding well, having gained nine pounds so far on a steady diet of squid. The typical sea turtle recovery process takes two to six months.

Aquarium visitors can view Arial live on a video monitor. Donations are being accepted to help pay for her care. Please call (206) 386-4329 for more information.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the East Coast, three Seattle Parks and Recreation community centers hosted teen forums last month to discuss the attacks and the government's response. Teens gathered at Hiawatha, Meadowbrook and Queen Anne community centers for the discussion as part of the annual Week Without Violence.

I will be in touch soon.

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