How should the next 6 years of Park District dollars be spent?

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

First thing Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jesús Aguirre wanted to clarify before a packed room at Delridge Community Center on Monday night – the Seattle Park District does NOT go back to voters for renewal – it’s a permanent taxing authority.

(We’ll confess, even we were confused, so it was a welcome clarification.)

What he was there to kick off – in what was supposed to be the first of three regional meetings around the city, though the other two have just been canceled – was feedback and decisionmaking on what the tax money collected by the Park District will pay for over the next six years. Here’s the slide deck he used to outline it:

(Or, see it here in PDF.) Aguirre will be sending a proposed six-year spending plan to the mayor in May, and after a process including multiple public hearings, it’ll be finalized by the Park District Board – aka the City Council – in November. That will be concurrent with the overall Parks and Rec Department two-year budget plan.

As shown in the slide deck, the superintendent hit the highlights of what the Park District had paid for in the past five-plus years, including art and sports/fitness initiatives, some of the long-overdue maintenance that was cited as a major reason to create the district, scholarship funds to cover fees for those who can’t afford them, community events, programming for older adults … the list went on.

Along the way, Aguirre said, they learned community centers and pools needed even more maintenance than the new funding could handle. They also learned that “free programming was very successful,” and that the scholarship funds were in high demand.

The department also worked on a new strategic plan, highlighting the city’s explosive population growth – 105,000+ new residents since the Park District’s creation. And that’s been accompanied by another kind of growth – the wealth gap – so Parks has focused on equity.

Before making way for table talk, Aguirre threw out three questions, suggesting that each table address one of them:

1. How can Parks facilities serve more people?
2. How can Parks keep taking care of its system?
3, How can Parks build toward the city of the future?

He noted that the system has almost 500 individual buildings.

At the table we observed, Question #1 was addressed; one recurrent critique was that Parks needs to be much more proactive in getting the word out about its programs and services. One woman who was there primarily to advocate for more pickleball access wondered how people find out. One man suggested communicating by USPS mail could be “effective.”

Another participant suggested expanded hours; yet another, there to advocate for space for roller derby, said her organization needed earlier access to reserving space.

Could available hours be expanded by doing more off-peak maintenance/repairs? Is the city adequately tracking which facilities go unused, and when?

When the tables each reported back to the full group, it was clear other attendees had similar sentiments, plus a few others to add – such as, a need for restrooms – even if only portable ones – at more parks and playgrounds.

There was also a warning: Don’t use the Park District money to replace what would previously have been covered by the regular city budget – the commitment made 6 years ago for this to be above and beyond that, needs to be honored.

MISSED THE MEETING? You can still tell the Parks Department what you think the Park District $ should be spent on. Go here and scroll down to the survey link; an email address for comments is available too – And if you are looking for more financial specifics – here’s 107 pages worth, as shown at an open house last month:

(Here’s the PDF version on Parks’ website.)

1 Reply to "How should the next 6 years of Park District dollars be spent?"

  • John March 6, 2020 (1:48 pm)

    The next six years of Park District funds should be spent on  the maintenance backlog that has continued to grow to millions of dollars.   There is little glory in doing delayed maintenance compared to shiny new facilities, so the politicians and activists make little note of the deplorable state of our city’s forests. 

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