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Community groups encouraged to partner with Seattle Parks and Recreation on facility expansions and improvements

Seattle Parks and Recreation encourages community groups to apply for funding from the Major Projects Challenge Fund. The Seattle Park District funding initiative will provide up to $1.6 million per year as a match to fund a significant improvement or expansion to an existing Seattle Parks and Recreation facility.  To apply for the funding match any community group can submit a two page proposal letter that outlines their project and funding needs.  The application letters are due on March 31, 2016.

“The Seattle community showed their support of Seattle Parks and Recreation by passing the Seattle Park District,” said Jesús Aguirre, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent. “This funding initiative provides a great avenue for us to partner with community groups to expand and improve our park and recreation facilities. We want to be responsive to the needs of the community today and build a strong Seattle Parks and Recreation for future generations.”

This initiative supports building a strong and healthy Seattle Parks and Recreation. It allows Seattle Parks and Recreation to be more responsive to community project proposals and to partner with community groups by providing matching funds. Often, the City is asked to provide financial support to major capital development projects that focus on parks and recreation and no funding is available. The Major Project Challenge Fund will provide City funding to leverage funding generated by others for renovation of our facilities.

An application process will prioritize community-initiated projects that have a parks-and-recreation mission, encourage public access, leverage non-City funds, and are on a Seattle Parks and Recreation property and/or a Seattle Parks and Recreation owned facility. Other criteria that the projects must meet are listed below. The 2007 renovation of the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center in partnership with the Mount Baker Boating Advisory Council is an example of a major project which would have been considered for the Major Projects Challenge Fund.

A portion of funding from the Major Projects Challenge Fund will be allocated to assist diverse communities and organizations that lack resources for a match. Groups that are unable to identify any match should contact David Graves, at or 206-684-7048. Mr. Graves will help the group with the funding process and help identify funding source(s) for submitting the application.

Approved by voters in 2014, the Seattle Park District provides more than $47 million a year in long-term funding for Seattle Parks and Recreation including maintenance of parklands and facilities, operation of community centers and recreation programs, and development of new neighborhood parks on previously acquired sites. 2016 is the first full year of implementation and will include funding to tackle the $267-million major maintenance backlog; and will fund the improvement and rehabilitation of community centers; preservation of the urban forest; major maintenance at the Aquarium and Zoo; day-to-day maintenance of parks and facilities; more recreation opportunities for people from underserved communities, programs for young people, people with disabilities, and older adults; development of new parks; and acquisition of new park land. For more information, please visit

For more information please and funding criteria visit or contact David Graves, 206-684-7048 or

Funding Criteria

a. Is it on Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) owned property and/or a SPR owned facility?

  • Rationale: Since the funds come through the Park District, they should be spent directly on SPR property and/or an SPR owned facility. Also, SPR will manage the project.

b. Is it an identified capital need at a park or park facility that is lacking in funding; is it a large scale project that may be funded from a variety of public and private funding sources with a total construction cost estimated to be in excess of $2 million? It should be a single project such as building renovation or expansion, or a facility improvement.

  • Rationale: There are other City funding sources such as the Neighborhood Matching funds available for smaller projects. The idea is that this funding should go to a significant project that improves or expands an existing facility. What is important is that the project be significant enough to provide long term value to the greater community.

c. What is the match? How does the project leverage or have the potential to leverage other resources through the actions of other public agencies, funding from public, private or philanthropic partners, and/or in-kind contributions of time and energy from citizen volunteers?

  • Rationale: For the actual construction phase of the project, the Major Project Challenge Fund should be leveraged with a 50% match but the match amount could be less and/or provided by other than a monetary match. Ideally, the applicant would be able to raise 50% (or more) of the project cost and the fund would fill the gap to bring the project up to 100% funding. There may be situations where there is significant community support for a project but the applicant doesn’t have the resources and/or connections to provide the full 50/50 match. In those situations, this criterion is intended to be flexible in setting a target goal for a match, but not an absolute requirement. There may also be situations where the applicant is unable to identify any match. In those situations, it may be up to SPR staff to step in and help the community with the funding process. If no other funding sources are identified during the initial submittal, it will be incumbent on staff to work with the applicant on funding in advance of submitting the formal application.For the initial phase of planning and design where SPR would make smaller amounts available in the range of $20,000 – $50,000 for planning and/or design work, there still should be some sort of match. The percentage and form of the match could be more flexible at this initial phase to get a project ready to apply for the larger construction amount.

d.  Does the project demonstrate a high degree of community support or involvement as demonstrated through a public review process and/or is the project consistent with approved plans, such as a neighborhood, community council or other recent planning documents?

  • Rationale: We are looking to fill an established/identified need at a particular facility. Ideally the project would have been previously identified in some prior planning work done by Parks or another government agency, or the community through a community process. A newly identified need/project could be considered, but the proposal will likely have more support if the project fills a long standing gap/need.

e. Does the project serve an underserved community?

  • Rationale: Parks has a commitment to racial equity and social justice. This funding is an opportunity to target improvement(s) to SPR facilities in underserved communities where there is an identified need but no or limited funding sources. These areas deserve special consideration if our goal is to provide equal access to all. SPR staff will be working to ensure that all communities are aware of this funding program and are provided the resources necessary to identify projects and prepare a competitive application. SPR staff will work with underserved communities during the initial application stage to establish a recommended match that will be vetted by the oversight committee. The match could be other funding source(s) or something else such as donated services.

f. Does the proposal restore or significantly extend the life of a current park or facility?

  • Rationale: In keeping with the “fix it first” mantra of the Park District, we are looking for projects that make improvements to existing facilities. The purpose of this challenge funding is not to undertake new capital projects but to make improvements to or expansion of existing parks or facilities.

g. What potential effects does the project have on the City’s maintenance and operating costs?

  • Rationale: We will want to see how the proposed improvement/expansion impacts our maintenance and operating costs at the subject facility. Part of the review of any proposal will be SPR staff determination of potential added facility costs. SPR staff is better suited than any awardee to undertake this detailed analysis and it should be part of the proposal/application review. That said, the initial funding request should include a rough order of magnitude of the additional maintenance and operating costs of an improved/expanded facility; i.e., what are existing costs and what are costs anticipated to be with the expanded or renovated facility. These costs could shift as a design evolves and thus just serve as a baseline in reviewing any proposed application.

h. What is the overall benefit of the project to the community?

  • Rationale: We will want to see the project and hence the expenditure benefit as many people as possible.