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News and Views from the Superintendent
No. 74. June 7, 2006
Gregory J. Nickels, Mayor
Kenneth R. Bounds, Superintendent
A periodic electronic newsletter about Parks and Recreation news, programs, projects and events from Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ken Bounds
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In this issue:
Urban Parks and Recreation Summit | Building a Transportation Foundation the Lasts | Powell Barnett Gets "Ultimate Park Makeover" | Planning for Skateboard Parks | Greenway Days, June 24-25 | Summer Guide 2006 | 2005 Annual Report | George Long, Jr.: 1948-2006


City Parks AllianceNRPAIn mid-May, the City Park Alliance (CPA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) co-sponsored a "summit" of park and recreation directors from large cities and their partners, including national organizations such as the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and local organizations such as the Seattle Parks Foundation and the Associated Recreation Council (ARC).

The summit was the culmination of an idea hatched in 2005 and developed largely by CPA members and park and recreation directors and organized by NRPA. We met in Virginia and Chicago in 2005 to organize the summit; NRPA handled the logistics and CPA and the TPL's Peter Harnik developed the program. The two main purposes of the summit were to galvanize park and recreation advocates and agency leaders to support a national "call to action" in support of urban parks and recreation, and to learn from each other about best practices. For more general information about the conference please see . Or if you or your organization would like to join the City Park Alliance, please go to

We sent a great delegation to Chicago. I was joined by B.J. Brooks, Deputy Superintendent; three Park Commissioners, Chair Kate Pflaumer and members Jack Collins and Jackie Ramels; ARC Executive Director Bill Keller and board member Bruce Bentley; and Seattle Parks Foundation staff Kimberly Bowen and Woody Wheeler.

I participated in a panel entitled: "Love and Let Love: How to Keep Different Kinds of Park and Recreation Enthusiasts from Killing Each Other." A familiar topic! I also spoke at a plenary session on "Politics, People and Parks: Can We Make the Equation Work?" I used the 2000 Pro Parks Levy as an example of how a wide diversity of park and recreation interests came together to form a coalition that resulted in the largest single park and recreation voter-approved tax levy in Seattle's history.

People were very interested in what we are doing in Seattle - they were impressed with our enormously strong volunteer support, our environmental ethic, our recreation partnerships, and how much our leaders and public support the parks. NRPA will be holding its annual conference in Seattle this October, so visitors will be able to see the real thing.

But, we also learned from others. One of the conclusions I came to was how all big cities are beginning to make the connections between what park and recreation departments and our partners do and the following urban challenges:

  • Economic development. There is a growing number of studies about how well-maintained parks increase property values of nearby property, and the importance of parks as a quality of life necessity for people as they move back into cities.
  • Health and wellness. A number of cities are partnering with health agencies to address the issues of obesity and fitness. We have been working with our partners on these issues as well, and it is clear that we play a major role in solving the health crisis.
  • Environmental stewardship. From Pittsburgh to L.A., large cities are reclaiming industrial sites as parks, daylighting streams, reforesting their green spaces and focusing attention on their own environmental issues. No wonder Mayor Nickels' Kyoto initiative has struck such a chord. Seattle's Green Seattle Partnership with the Cascade Land Conservancy was of interest to many, not to mention our incredible Friends of groups and volunteers.
  • Youth education and enrichment. Every city's parks and recreation agency is working with youth in some fashion, mostly through programs that support youth at school. Again, we have been doing this for years, with support from the Families and Education Levy, the Associated Recreation Council, and other City resources. The Community Learning Centers that we and the YMCA operate at Seattle's middle schools are a great example.

It was refreshing to see all these other cities dealing with these same issues. Many face severe budget cuts and other resource constraints. It was clear that each city had to figure out its own way of addressing needs. New York has the Central Park Conservancy and the Prospect Park Alliance, both powerful organizations that support two major urban parks. Other cities had similar partners. I was proud to show off our partnerships and emphasize how we could not be successful without them.

Hopefully, a larger, national movement will come from this initial summit.


Street Repair

Seattle cannot continue building a first-rate city on a second-rate transportation system. Mayor Greg Nickels recently unveiled a 20-year plan that will eliminate Seattle's $500 million transportation maintenance backlog and make investments in major transportation projects such as fixing the "Mercer Mess."

The Mayor's 2006 transportation initiative proposes to raise $65 million in the first year through a property tax levy, a commercial parking fee, and a business transportation tax.

The initiative, called "Bridging the Gap" will:

  • Eliminate the transportation backlog
  • Pave Seattle streets and repair potholes
  • Make seismic upgrades to our most vulnerable bridges
  • Improve pedestrian and bike safety
  • Increase transit speed and reliability

While Parks has been fortunate since 1999 with two voter-approved levies, the Seattle Department of Transportation has seen its resources dwindle by the loss of the street utility tax and the continued erosion of gas tax funds.

The transportation levy would fund several parks projects including trail improvements near South Lake Union Park, rebuilding of the Burke-Gilman Trail from the University of Washington north to city limits at NE 145th St., and new sidewalks near some of our facilities.

For more information please visit


On May 19, Parks, contractor Leajack Construction, and hundreds of Starbucks and community volunteers completed the "Ultimate Park Makeover" - an unprecedented seven-day volunteer effort to make park improvements that would normally take months to complete. Parks project manager Andy Sheffer successfully managed the project, which had a short time period and many moving parts!

Improvements will include a new play area, including, seat walls, benches, picnic and gaming tables, plaza, picnic and BBQ areas, improved park entries, and a playfield renovation.

Named in honor of community activist Powell Barnett, the 4.4-acre park had begun to show its age. Community members, including Barnett's granddaughter, Maisha Barnett, built public support and raised money, obtaining grants to complete public process and design. The community's dedication attracted the attention of Starbucks, which selected the park to receive $550,000 through the Starbucks Parks Fund, part of the $1 million commitment from the Starbucks Neighborhood Parks Program. The group also received a $200,000 grant from the Pro Parks Levy Opportunity Fund.

Community members will continue working on park elements throughout the summer and Parks will host a grand opening in the fall.

For more information, please visit


Ballard Commons Park

With thousands of skateboarders in Seattle, and only two public skateparks, Seattle Parks and Recreation and a City Council-appointed task force are creating a citywide plan to help provide public facilities for this popular sport.

You are invited to come to one of three public meetings, learn about skateboarding in Seattle, talk about different types of skateboard facilities, and give your ideas about possible site locations.

  • Wednesday, June 14, 7-9 p.m., Rainier Community Center, 4600 38th Ave S.
  • Thursday, June 15, 7-9 p.m., Southwest Community Center, 2801 SW Thistle St.
  • Saturday, June 17, 1-3 p.m., Green Lake Public Library, 7364 E. Green Lake Dr. N.

In addition, on Saturday June 24, noon-3 p.m., the skateboarding community and Parks will host an open house and skate tournament at the new Ballard Bowl at Ballard Commons Park, NW 57th St. and 22nd Ave. NW.

Draft criteria for site selection and the different types of skateboard facilities Seattle is considering will be posted on the web by June 10 at the web page A second round of public meetings in September will include proposed locations for future skateboard facilities.


Ballard Commons Park

Enjoy a weekend of games, tours, music, events and fun along Interstate-90 at Greenway Days on June 24 and 25, 2006.

Sponsored by Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, the event will feature a 100-mile multi-sport mountains-to-sound relay, .classic car show, 100-mile mountains-to-sound scavenger hunt, and a "green treasures" trek for the entire family.

For event locations, times and more details, please visit


Seattle parks, community centers, pools and other facilities are the place to be this summer. Join us for summer day camp, concerts in the park, swimming at lifeguarded beaches and much more. Our much-anticipated Summer Guide 2006 is now available on our web site

Annual Report


New community centers, play areas and off-leash areas. More and improved programs for teens and senior adults. Read about 2005 news and accomplishments in our 2005 Annual Report, available at

GEORGE LONG, JR.: 1948-2006

Last month our beloved staff member George Long passed away. We will all miss George for as many reasons as the people who knew him.

George worked for Seattle Parks and Recreation for 34 years, most of them as an event scheduler. He had an amazing store of knowledge about park policies and rules, and hundreds of parks and park buildings. George loved the outdoors, especially camping at Salmon La Sac in the Cascade Mountains, playing golf, Sunday driving, riding roller coasters, and meeting friends at Seattle's Blue Moon Tavern. He was a loving father, family member and co-worker, and we will miss him dearly.

I'll be in touch soon.

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