Seattle Parks and Recreation to further delay Park District planning given ongoing COVID-19 crisis response

Delay will allow for additional community outreach and understanding of changing community needs due to the pandemic and recovery efforts 

In March of 2020, Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) decided to delay the Park District planning process by at least one year. Considering the ongoing uncertainty associated with the trajectory of the pandemic and related economic impacts, SPR has determined that another one-year delay is necessary. SPR also seeks to better understand changing community needs through a recovery lens.   

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SPR operations rapidly shifted to focus on providing critical services, including community showers, childcare for those furthest from educational justice, enhanced cleaning of facilities and restrooms, a focus on keeping parks open while supporting public health and safety, free meals programs, and virtual programming aimed at those most isolated. A delay in launching a long-term planning effort will support this continued focus on essential emergency services.

This change in service provision, as well as new public health restrictions on gathering size, interrupted the planning process and community outreach efforts that SPR launched in early 2020 for the next six-year cycle of the Seattle Park District, initially intended to span 2021-2026. As these conditions are still true today, SPR must further delay a large-scale community planning effort toward new Park District priorities.  

“The Seattle Park District Governing Board took the prudent step to respond to the unprecedented demands of 2020 by creating a bridge year in our strategic planning. Delivering emergency services in response to the pandemic – both health and economic impacts – must continue to be the top priority for Seattle Parks and Recreation. Long-range planning is vital but cannot be done effectively until we have more certainty about our health, safety, and economic outlook and can incorporate the public’s valuable input.” - Councilmember Debora Juarez, Chair of the Public Assets and Native Communities committee

“Seattle Parks and Recreation continues to provide essential and life-saving services to the community as part of our pandemic and recovery response, including offering free meals programs, childcare, and hygiene services. Pausing Park District planning efforts will allow us to continue to focus on these critical services, in addition to prioritizing near-term actions, including expanding outreach to better understand our role in supporting citywide equitable recovery efforts, with an emphasis on serving BIPOC communities and others most impacted by the health crisis.”– Jesús Aguirre, SPR Superintendent 

Consistent with the department’s approach for the 2021 Park District budget, SPR will plan to develop an annual budget for Seattle Park District funding in 2022 in parallel with the City’s biennial budget process. SPR will plan to introduce a resolution enabling this delay at the Park District Board meeting on June 21, 2021.   

In the meantime, SPR plans to revisit our 2020-2032 Strategic Plan to identify near-term actions SPR can take to support pandemic and economic recovery and deepen our commitment to equitable service delivery. This will involve conducting additional focused outreach, particularly in those communities that have been the most impacted by the health emergency. This near-term action plan will likely inform future funding needs for the department and will prioritize actions that serve BIPOC communities and mitigate historical injustice. Planning for a 2023-2028 six-year cycle is anticipated to commence in early 2022. 

As we move forward, SPR will provide additional information on next steps. Please visit https://www.seattle.gov/seattle-park-district/park-district-planning to stay up to date.