Originally planned by the famed Olmsted brothers more than 100 years ago, Seattle has one of the great parks and recreation systems in America.
Here on Queen Anne, we enjoy parks and viewpoints, p-patches and greenbelts, playgrounds and playfields, one of the most beautiful boulevards in the city, a swimming pool and a community center. All of these and the programs offered in these places form part of the larger parks and recreation system in the city.
Yet, for years, we have been unable to properly fund the maintenance and care of this remarkable system. Daily maintenance has been reduced at virtually every park — the park board even experimented with leaving some parks to “brown.” The backlog of maintenance needs now stands at $267 million.
The reason for the growing backlog can be linked to the state Legislature’s decision to limit property-tax growth to 1 percent per year and the effects of the great recession on other tax revenues. The impact of the property-tax limitation is that tax revenues have grown slower than the cost of living, the costs of health care and the growing needs of a city experiencing a population boom.
The Department of Parks and Recreation has made significant reductions in costs over the last five years by cutting staff, cutting programs and cutting regular maintenance. The result is a system badly in need of care.
Addressing various needs
It’s time to invest in our parks again. Our current parks levy expires this year. Instead of proposing another levy, a group of citizens has recommended the creation of Metropolitan Parks Districts: Proposition 1. The establishment of these districts will provide a steady source of funds — through a property tax — that will be dedicated to our parks and recreation system. These funds cannot be used for other city services.
On Aug. 5, Seattle voters will decide whether to approve Proposition 1, which will address a wide variety of parks system needs, including replacing leaky roofs, boiler replacements and critical electrical upgrades; cleaning restrooms, trash pickup and mowing; restoring staffing, hours and programs at community centers that serve our children and our seniors; 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 space.
The cost to the owner of a $400,000 home will be about $4 per month more than what he/she currently pays for the expiring parks lewvy.
Proposition 1 will provide the resources we need to ensure that our parks serve every neighborhood and community across Seattle.
A supportive system
Our parks system is one of our greatest democratic institutions, bringing together people from all walks of life and all races and ethnicities to share equally in the beauty of nature and the benefits of recreation.
It also provides needed health benefits — not only the physical benefit of exercise, but studies now show there are significant benefits to our mental health when we enjoy nature.
Based on a carefully considered proposal developed by a citizens committee, Proposition 1 received unanimous support from Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council and is endorsed by dozens of respected organizations that care about parks, like The Sierra Club; Friends of Athletic Fields; Seattle Human Services Coalition; King County Conservation Voters; Seattle Youth Soccer Association; Transportation Choices Coalition; Seattle Parks Foundation; 32nd, 34th, 36th, 37th and 43rd District Democrats; Forterra; and many others.
On Aug. 5, please vote yes for parks on Proposition 1.
YAZMIN MEHDI is a Queen Anne resident. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.