Looking back at the first half of 2018, we have seen many exciting changes in our city’s parks and recreation system. This year, Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) opened a beautiful new park in the Yesler Terrace neighborhood; we enjoyed splashing in all 32 wading pools this summer, and we opened the Washington Park Arboretum Loop Trail, creating a new multi-use paved walking and biking trail in one of Seattle’s most treasured parks.
As we look forward to 2019, we are eager to continue to make advancements on projects and programs that are crucial to the livability of our growing city. Planning has begun on all 14 of the landbanked park sites through Seattle Park District funding, setting in motion the creation of more neighborhood parks. New affordable housing will open in Magnuson Park. We have stepped up the frequency and rigor of maintenance on our recreation facilities, and we will continue to focus on preserving our community centers and pools and making them welcoming places to gather.
Mayor Durkan’s 2019 budget has looked to SPR to deliver on core services, while seeking efficiencies. SPR manages a 6,400-acre park system of over 485 parks and extensive natural areas. SPR provides athletic fields, tennis courts, play areas, specialty gardens, and more than 25 miles of boulevards and 120 miles of trails and will continue to provide maintenance and service in neighborhoods across the city.
Recognizing that parks and recreation facilities are examples of the basic public infrastructure that can also help build community, the proposed budget includes new investments in neighborhoods that lack such facilities or where existing facilities have been neglected. The proposed budget provides several key investments in 2019 and 2020 that reflect SPR’s continued focus on asset preservation, facility maintenance, and investing through a Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) lens. Key changes include:
- Additional resources to develop a landbanked site in North Rainier into a park
- Funding to support a comprehensive park site redevelopment in South Park
- Funding for a play area renovation in Bitter Lake
- Planning and design in Yesler Crescent (City Hall Park and Prefontaine Plaza)
- Additional support for the Lake City Community Center renovation
- Resources for schematic design at Greenlake Community Center
- Resources to begin planning to convert West Queen Anne Playfield from grass to turf, and to replace synthetic turf at Queen Anne Bowl Playfield and Georgetown Playfield
- Additional Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) project improvements, and continued support for SPR’s ongoing maintenance programs
Operating Efficiencies and Fee Increases
Through a hard looking at staffing, contracting, and administrative costs, SPR was able to reduce our overall budget in 2019. As labor costs increase each year, fees for athletic fields, pools, and event facilities will increase to cover the costs to provide these resources to the community.
The proposed budget provides funding for increased Late Night programming on Saturdays and additional operating hours on Sundays at South Park Community Center. Late Night programming for youth aims to provide at-risk young people a safe place, a healthy meal, and the opportunity to develop life skills. In addition, SPR is increasing youth scholarships by 38%. These scholarships will help make a range of SPR programs and activities more accessible to low-income youth and families. Additionally, funds yielded from pool fee increases will provide free swim lessons to low-income youth.
Seattle Park District Realignments
The 2019-2020 Proposed Budget leverages Seattle Park District resources to realize efficiencies in other funding sources. The proposed budget shifts $10 million in General Fund operating costs to be covered by the Park District and adds $10 million of Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) to support Park District-funded capital projects.
While Seattle is the fastest growing City in the country, SPR is committed to keeping our city vibrant and livable by providing clean and safe parks, along with access to a variety of recreation activities for Seattle’s diverse community members.