County Parks Plan: Saving the Sacrificial Lamb

What did you do over Memorial Day weekend? Did you meet your family for a picnic at Silverdale Waterfront Park in Central Kitsap, stroll the beach at Point No Point in North Kitsap or take your dog for a walk at Bandix Dog Park in South Kitsap? From North to South (or South to North if you look at it from our perspective) the county’s nearly 6,000 acres of parks and open space are an integral part of life in Kitsap County. On Wednesday, we’ll run the first of a two-part series on what the county is doing to spare its parks and recreation programs from decimation given the budget shortfall that will hit in 2008. Here’s Part I

County officials brainstorm ways to fund ongoing parks operations.
By Chris Henry
With Kitsap County’s budget heading for the red in 2008, and all “discretionary” spending potentially on the chopping block, the county’s Department of Facilities Parks and Recreation would seem to be the most obvious place to start some serious budget cutting.
But county commissioners Josh Brown, Chris Endresen and Jan Angel all agree that recreation is not an expendable amenity, and they’re working with parks and rec officials on strategies to provide ongoing funding for as many facilities and programs as possible.
“We would always argue parks are not discretionary, because you have to have them to maintain the quality of life,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen, who noted the parks department also covers facility maintenance and janitorial services.
One possible solution to the parks budget crunch that commissioners entertained at a recent study session is the formation of a parks district, such as that which administers parks and facilities on Bainbridge Island. The county parks department’s Jacquelyn Aufderheide described three hypothetical models for a parks district, one of which could be formed only with voter approval. Another could be formed with voter approval or by resolution of the local governing entity. Both would have to go out for a parks levy every six years. A metropolitan parks district, as on Bainbridge, requires voter approval but the levy is permanently established. Voters on Bainbridge approved the arrangement in 2004, with 70 percent voting yes.
Creating a parks district could provide a stable source of funding and more autonomy for parks, Aufderheide said. But would voters go for it?
Chip Faver, parks department head, stressed that the formation of a parks district is just one of many ideas that came out of a brainstorming session in which all county department heads were asked to find ways to amend the budget shortfall. Faver said, given the recent library levy failure and South Kitsap’s failed bond, the climate is not favorable to ask voters for new taxes any time soon.
“I see any of these options being way out in the future” Faver said.
The board is also considering forming a “blue ribbon” advisory board (separate from the county’s regular parks advisory board) to look at creative short- and long-term ideas for maintaining parks and programs. The board would be made up of citizens from various interest groups and geographical areas.
“There’s a lot of talent out there,” said Endresen.
Others ideas floated at the meeting included increasing fees, relying more heavily on local cities for support of parks in urban areas and seeking community partnerships for assistance in maintaining parks and running recreational programs.
Faver, who took over the parks department Feb. 12, has said one of his first priorities is to streamline revenue flow within the budget. Currently, he said, revenue and expenditures are not well lined up.
“When you’ve got money that goes from right field to left field to second base to home, you’ve got some inefficiencies,” said Faver. “My focus is on streamlining available resources right now and investing in what makes sense for the county.”
Faver said the county needs to look at its current fee schedule for parks and identify where (and by how much) it could raise fees to generate additional revenue. He said the county needs to look at other revenue-generating initiatives, especially grants, and added that it needs to develop more partnerships with groups that could take a stewardship role in maintaining parks and programs. An example would be the arrangement the county has with a local disc golf group, which uses county land in exchange for keeping up the course and removing litter.

By the Numbers: County Parks and Commissioner Priorities
Central Kitsap – 1,918.92 acres
South Kitsap – 2,812.47 acres
North Kitsap – 1,140.50 acres
(Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Parks District, which is separate from Kitsap County, administers roughly 1,200 acres of parks and open space.)

5 thoughts on “County Parks Plan: Saving the Sacrificial Lamb

  1. Our parks can be money-makers for the community and bring business to us.

    Just this weekend I was up near Bellingham (in Lynden) for a baseball tournament my son was participating in. Some from our team (and 52 other teams) camped at a nearby KOA. Others (like me) stayed in a Bellingham hotel. Doing the math, about $250,000 in business was brought into the community because of the weekend tournament. Between hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, sundries, and of course batting gloves (side story for another day), money gets spent by visiting teams. Tournaments are big money makers for local economies. But you have to have the fields to draw these family activities!

    The fields (Bender Fields in Lynden) were wonderful. They were configured for baseball in the Spring and soccer in the Fall. There was wide-open grass for families to stretch out on and play frisbee or catch. Within 24 hours we were on a first-name basis with the fella at the local market. It was great! Wish we had something like that in South Kitsap! Oh, wait… we can!!!

    Public parks are win-win for communities. They draw families in to live by improving the quality of life and they can be self-sustaining when a community is willing to invest in their own future.

    By the way, South Kitsap’s own Cheyenne Sluggers took first place in the 12 year old division! Go Sluggers!

    Kathryn Simpson

  2. Just a little suggestion here. I know that it costs to maintain them, but with a little publicity (since there is VERY little to none to begin with…) I think it could do some good to raise more funds in the longrun to help with maintaining the parks.

    I have recently thought of going on a camping trip to a local state park here in Kitsap county, where we’ve found out that they rent out cabins at a rate of $55 per night. Not too bad, huh? Especially since each cabin provides a sleeping capacity for 5 people! That’s room enough for the whole family!

    In addition to some of the state parks here renting out cabins at a low rate, there are also Yurts (very similar to a cabin, but round..), and platform tents for an equally reasonable price.

    I’ve gotten to talking with many people about this recently, and not one person that I’ve spoken with on this subject even KNEW that they were available!

    My suggestion is that the larger local parks here should all offer the availability of at least two of one of those types of lodgings, and let it be KNOWN!

    Like I said, I know it could cost to maintain those as well, but in the longrun, with a little publicity to let the public know that they offer those to begin with, I’m sure they would be rented out in no time, thus bringing in some of the extra funds to help maintain our local parks.

    It’s just a suggestion. 🙂

  3. I was gratified to see the rather off-hand comment at the end of this article about the relationship of the county parks department and the West Sound Disc Golf Association. I am an active member in that organization who takes park stewardship very seriously. Just this past Monday, my wife and I were walking the Fairgrounds disc golf course, picking up litter and pruning blackberry patches. On “hole #8” we came upon a still-smoking camp fire in an area that had obviously been the scene of a recent beer party. There were dozens of beer cans strewn about, along with a great deal of paper and food garbage. We went to work, picking up the trash and wiping out the traces of the fire. We don’t expect to get paid for this. We want the disc golf course to remain a safe and pleasant place to play the game for the entire public. And we are not the only members of the WSDGA who do this sort of thing. Several of our member spend hundreds of volunteer hours each year clean, repairing, and maintaining the disc golf courses we have in the area. And this service to the community costs the tax-paying public nothing. Yes, I’d say we have a positive working relationship with the public.

  4. Congrats to the Sluggers! That is just another example of a quality community facility that is totally self-sufficient where the use pays for the maintenance. I look at Starfire in Tukwila is yet another shining example of a quality facility that generates a much greater income than it costs to maintain.
    We have the same capability to establish something comparable at SK Community Park. I think that what gets buried in the controversy past has been that one portion of the park being dedicated to provide tournament quality fields for baseball, football and soccer could actually generate enough income to sustain the costs of other community projects that have been envisioned for the property, projects that wouldn’t otherwise sustain themselves, and bolster the local economy during events. The County’s financial woes most likely won’t be a disappearing act, now is the time to bring in all of the contributing sports groups and interest groups together to formulate a plan of sustainment through smart investment. All of these entities have been trying to formulate resolution plans on their own, imagine what the collective could produce to the County for the benefit of the community.

  5. Splitting the parks into districts will give people with a higher tax base, better parks. If you ask people from the lower tax base areas if they would pay for their park, of course they’ll say no. Parks are not optional. They are necessary for the morale and pride of our community. They are an indication of civilization.

    Since a large portion of our population in this county is transient in nature (Armed Forces specifically) and yet those folks get to use our counties parks as well. Shouldn’t we be getting some sort of support from the federal government for providing parks for their enlisted as well.

    While stationed at Fort Lewis I always wondered who paid for my use of the outlying communities parks.

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