Support Seattle Parks for All and Vote YES on Proposition 1 in August

The August 5th Primary Ballot will offer Proposition 1 to the public to decide whether to approve a Seattle Park District. Athletic field upgrade projects are included in the ballot measure (Proposition 1) so this is worth paying attention to and supporting the campaign called Seattle Parks for All that is promoting establishment of the park district. Seattle citizens have always supported their park system well having passed two special levies in 2000 and 2008 to provide extra funding to the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. During the Great Recession, major cuts were made to Seattle Parks and Rec's budgets as parks departments are almost always at the bottom of the funding priority list. To add to the budgeting problems, Seattle Parks and Rec is faced with upkeep of many old and deteriorating buildings and facilities that have contributed to a $270 million backlog in major maintenance projects. Seattle Parks and Rec would greatly benefit from having a stable, long-term funding source and the creation of a Seattle Park District will provide just such a permanent solution with tax revenue dedicated to Seattle parks. A Seattle Park District will establish a new taxing authority within the Seattle city limits for helping fund the existing DPR's operations, programs, and capital projects. The proposed tax rate would amount to $133 per year for a house valued at $400,000 or about $4 more per month than the expiring parks levy. The initiatives in the proposed funding plan for 2015-2021 include major maintenance like repairing leaky roofs, boiler replacements, and critical electrical upgrades; ongoing maintenance like cleaning restrooms, trash pickup, and mowing; restoring staffing, hours, and programs for kids and seniors at community centers; acquiring new parks and open space to meet increased demand; funding for major maintenance at Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium; and funding to protect habitat and open spaces in the city.

The following athletic field projects are also included:

  • Synthetic turf replacements at 12 playfields (for when the synthetic fibers reach the end of their life): Bobby Morris, Georgetown, Interbay Stadium, Lower Woodland 2 and 7, Loyal Heights, Miller, and Magnuson (3 fields + 2 baseball infelds) =~$6M total
  • Field upgrades at 13 natural grass playfields: Ballard, Bayview, Bitter Lake, Cleveland, Dahl, East Queen Anne, West Queen Anne, Rainier Beach PF, Rainier PF drainage, View Ridge, Magnolia North, Magnolia South, and West Seattle Stadium =~$16M total
  • Smith Cove Playfield upgrade to the underutilized site that was acquired way back with the ProParks 2000 levy but never fully developed by DPR; as part of the Smith Cove Park project developing and maintaining the newly acquired Port waterfront property =~$2.1M for the playfield portion

All the details are spelled out in the proposed Interlocal Agreement [ILA], which is to be mutually approved by Mayor Murray and the Park District Board (to be served by City Council) once the park district is established. The ILA was also established to spell out expectations for Seattle Parks and Rec’s operations under a Park District (essentially no changes), City commitments (e.g., no supplanting of existing funding), and to address concerns of park district critics. All the details are spelled out at the following websites:

Thanks for your support for athletes young and old.

 

Mayor Murray's Parks Funding Plan - March 2014

Mayor Murray announced his Parks Funding proposal on March 13th with some adjustments to the Legacy Committee's recommendations. He has recommended a vote on the MPD funding method at a proposed $54M level for the first 6 years. The biggest impact on field users is the neglect of adding any new sportsfields to increase availability and reduce the need to squash many teams on one field for practice time and to reduce driving to far away facilities. In addition, the Mayor eliminated the initiative to provide for more synthetic turf maintenance that included purchase of a 2nd Sport Champ grooming machine. Given that more regular maintenance is reported to extend the life of the synthetic carpets by 2 years, FAF feels that this would still be a worthwhile investment with long-term cost savings and should be included in the measure to get the most out the synthetic surfaces already installed.

All here on the Mayor's blog: http://murray.seattle.gov/parkdistrict/#sthash.yDAuW0e6.dpbs

 

Parks Legacy Citizens Advisory Committee Recommendations - February 2014

What projects should be included in the August 2014 ballot measure?  Go to the Legacy Committee webpage for the complete list; there are projects included for replacing synthetic "carpets" when they wear out at the end of their ten-year life (12 playfields) and 13 other playfield maintenance upgrade projects, finally Smith Cove playfield pegged to get real development funding, and a second Sport Champ synthetic maintenance grooming machine are all in the mix.

How big should the package be? How much are you willing to pay in taxes for Seattle Parks?  $58 million annually for the entire list

What mechanism should be used to help fund Seattle Parks and Recreation? Levy (short-term, permanent)? Metropolitan Parks District?  MPD won the day as a long-term stable source of funding for tackling the $270M maintenance backlog, restore DPR to proper levels of operational support for Community Centers and other programs, boost maintenance of new and existing facilities, meet contractual maintenance upkeep obligations, and implement other important projects

 

The Legacy Plan Citizens Advisory Committee has completed its work and our recommendations along with the Final Report have been transmitted to Mayor Murray and City Council. The Mayor will make his recommendation to City Council by March 18th and then Council's Select Committee on Parks Funding will finalize all assuming they decide to move forward with an August ballot measure, which most signs point to.

The Select Committee on Parks Funding will be meeting on the following dates including a public hearing on April 7th. Feel free to let CM Sally Bagshaw and the rest know your thoughts about what should be included in the package and the funding method.

 

Parks Funding Telephone Survey - January 2014

In January, the Seattle Parks Foundation, Associated Recreation Council, Seattle Aquarium, and Woodland Park Zoo commissioned EMC Research to conduct a survey of Seattle voters to determine:

  • Citizens' appetite for establishing a Metropolitan Parks District in Seattle; and

  • what level of funding for park and recreation services they are willing to support.

The interesting public polling results show good support for an MPD as well as Seattle Parks in general and for higher levels of funding for parks. Read all about it here (click on image in middle of the page): https://support.seattleparksfoundation.org/pages/advocacy/mpd-polling

 

Seattle Parks Legacy Plan

Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) has posted a new draft of the Parks Legacy Plan on their website on April 24, 2013 and has requested public comment. There will also be several public meetings in May (see below) to solicit public input with one devoted to sports and recreation on May 8th at Green Lake Community Center. The Plan is being developed in three phases and this Phase 2 product presents the state of DPR today with regard to staffing and organizational structure, services and programs offered, and how it is all paid for. Although there is lots of interesting data, there is not a whole lot to comment on yet since the heart of the matter, to figure out the path forward and especially how to pay for it all will not be presented until Phase 3 in June. Feel free to provide email comments to: parkslegacy@seattle.gov.

 

Background: DPR staff have made a couple of presentations to the Parks Board this year on the Parks Legacy Plan currently under development. This Plan has morphed out of a City Council request in 2011 for DPR to assess long-term funding options for maintaining and operating Seattle's extensive parks system. Levies have been relied on since 2000 for acquiring and developing new and existing parks and sometimes providing for maintenance and programming. However, levies have traditionally not been viewed as a stable source of revenue for maintenance and other options have recently been considered, such as a "metropolitan" parks district, with separate taxing authority (see Seattle Parks Future Funding below). This Plan builds on the Strategic Action Plan issued in 2009 and looks to incorporate new data on actual DPR O&M costs, public survey and other outreach results, and new trends in parks and recreation. A draft Parks Legacy Plan, project schedule, and other background information are posted at the link on DPR's Projects and Planning webpage. A public review draft is planned for May/June 2013 with public comment period.

Magnuson Park - Future Fields and "the parking lot"

The Final Magnuson Strategic Development Plan document was posted on the Warren G. Magnuson Park webpage in 2012 (despite what it might say about second draft status). Field users can take comfort that "building more athletic fields" is one of the top priorities for the "Land" category. The next challenge is to get funding for these fields that were approved in the 2004 Magnuson Master Plan. FAF has taken every opportunity to promote the need to build these approved fields with DPR, the Mayor, and City Council. Our focus is to NOT build the parking lot on top of the Sand Point grass fields (as shown on the Master Plan) and to build multi-use fields that can be used by multiple sports throughout the year.

 

Background: Several sports leagues and FAF attended the kickoff workshop and several public meetings on the SDP in 2012. Field users really stepped up by submitting 70% of the email comments, which showed tremendous public support for building more of the athletic fields. See the Magnuson SDP and other info here: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/Magnuson/.

 

Mayor McGinn's 2013 Athletic Field Users Summit, August 12th at City Hall

The Third Annual Fields Summit was held on August 12th at City Hall with about thirty people in attendance. Mayor McGinn, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, Superintendent Christopher Williams and associated staff made presentations and engaged in worthwhile conversations about all things to do with sportsfields. The Central Budget Office evaluated options for a potential dedicated fund through rental fees for synthetic turf replacement that included fee increases at varying levels. Youth leagues better review the details. Thanks to Ainsley Close/Mayor's Office for organizing this event once again and helping make sure progress is being made.

Synthetic Turf Fields

With the recent installation of many synthetic fields in Seattle (going on 19 rectangular fields plus 4 baseball infields) DPR has enjoyed the greatly reduced need for maintenance work and associated budget requirements. However, synthetic fields still have maintenance requirements and if conducted on a regular basis are reported to extend their life by a couple of years. FAF has been asking DPR to implement a rigorous synthetic turf maintenance plan and document what work is actually done on these fields. The reported acquisition by DPR of a new turf grooming machine is good news and a great start.

Synthetic turf does have a limited life of approximately 10 years and the "carpet" and infill will eventually need to be replaced. FAF has been floating the idea with DPR, the Mayor, and Council of establishing a synthetic turf replacement fund that would be dedicated to this purpose and could not be used for any other general fund purposes. The turf fund would be paid for by field users through a surcharge of say $2 to $4 per hour on field rental fees. This relatively small surcharge would provide enough budget over ten years to replace most of these carpets. This synthetic turf fund option would provide sustainable funding and avoids reliance on either the General Fund (where parks take lowest priority) or possible future parks levies (no guaranteed funding there either). Seattle's golf course system sets the precedent and is the best example of how field users could be assured of retaining high quality sportsfields into the future.

 

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