Sometime in the next week, Seattle Parks (and other departments) will announce what midyear cuts they have to make this summer as the result of mayoral mandates on the budget – but there were no hints during briefings at last night’s Parks Board meeting downtown. In fact, while previous Parks statements had indicated the cuts would be announced on or around June 1st, acting deputy superintendent Eric Friedl told the board the news might not come till the following week. In his meeting-opening briefing, filling in for acting superintendent Christopher Williams, Friedl promised that even though this is a “furlough weekend” for Parks, and there’s no trash pickup today, the “seasonal schedule” mentioned after the trash debacle a few weeks ago kicks in Saturday, so you should NOT see a repeat at Alki – or any other city park – this weekend. Read on for other toplines from the Parks Board meeting, which started with a relatively sizable crowd – about 30 people:
PARKS PROGRAMS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: There was a formal briefing about what are described as the “specialized” programs, as well as touching testimonials from a few of the people who have used them, including Zach Meyer, who uses a wheelchair, talking about his basketball achievements, saying it’s helped him get ahead in life – as a complement to an academic career in which he has a 4.0 GPA. (With him was Tami English from Seattle Adaptive Sports, who said some colleges have wheelchair-basketball scholarships now.) Another wheelchair-basketball player’s dad said it meant a lot to his son, an amputee, to be able to play sports after deciding in 4th grade it was time to start using a chair. Parks staffers say these programs cost about $712,000 a year systemwide, with most of that going to staff costs; they also talked about the programs including life skills as well as sports. There was one specific West Seattle mention – a camping program at Camp Long that served more than 500 people last summer. You can read the briefing paper here.
LIFELONG RECREATION: These are the programs for people 50+, and while there was no formal briefing, there were a few spirited public comments declaring these programs shouldn’t be cut either. Linnea Mattson said her age group represents a third of Seattle’s population, and needs these programs to stay intact so they can best serve the needs of older Seattleites, instead of expecting them to “disperse back into” general programs.
COMMUNITY GARDENING: Ron Harris-White gave a general presentation about Seattle Parks’ involvement with community gardening – not just specifically the P-Patch program, which has some gardens on Parks sites, but gardening in general, and the rest of the food growth/consumption cycle. He said, “We’re riding a wave of interest in community gardening and all we have is a boogie board.” He noted that city elected officials have declared this to be the Year of Urban Agriculture – and no fewer than 150 city programs relate to “urban food systems,” with 45 of them under the Seattle Parks umbrella, and an interdepartmental team coordinating the programs’ interaction citywide. The point of the briefing seemed to be that P-Patches – administered by the Department of Neighborhoods – are not the only “community gardens” in the city, though that seems to be the default term most people use for any such garden. You can read the community-gardening briefing paper here. West Seattle side notes: Those on hand to support Harris-White in case of questions included Highland Park’s Becca Fong, whose expertise includes composting. And WS-residing board vice chair Neal Adams offered at the briefing’s end, “For somebody who grew up in rural Arkansas, growing vegetables, I have to say, it’s really cool to see you city folks getting excited about this!”
TREE-TRIMMING PERMITS: This too was a briefing, not an action item or a request for action, but it did veer into some policy discussion. Several times a year, the Parks Department handles requests from park properties’ neighbors to have trees trimmed to preserve views. While city policy does allow this, it requires the permit-requesting homeowner to pay the costs of the work, and prohibits certain types of tree-trimming, like topping. Mark Mead told the board that while they only have a few permit requests a year, they can be very time-consuming to process, taking up a major part of his time. He said “every third phone call” he gets is about tree trimming; his job also includes investigating illegal cutting. That led a few board members to wonder aloud if perhaps in this budget-crunch era, the city should change its policy to “no trimming of Parks trees.” While WS-residing board chair Jackie Ramels cautioned her colleagues that the briefing wasn’t meant to spark that kind of discussion, Mead did note that any such ban could lead to even more illegal cutting. You can read the tree-trimming-policy briefing paper here.
GOLF CONTRACT: One note of interest to West Seattle Golf Course users; acting deputy superintendent Friedl said that with the city golf-course-management contract expiring soon, they’d issued a request for proposals, and eight had come in, including one by the current operator. One will be chosen next month for negotiations, according to Friedl.
SPECIAL LOCATION FOR NEXT PARKS BOARD MEETING: They’re meeting at Woodland Park Zoo next time, 7 pm June 10th. Watch their city webpage for agenda info.