The Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee has completed a report on the first two years of work on the $146 million levy approved by the voters in 2008. The City’s general fund has been strained by the recession, and the Parks Department is facing difficult challenges in keeping its operations going. However, the Levy is delivering a series of projects that in many cases reduces operations costs through renovation of existing facilities, in addition to acquiring and developing new open spaces for Seattle’s future.
The Levy’s renovations have become even more crucial in these difficult times, as some of these parks and facilities might have had to be closed for safety purposes or lack of adequate funding.
In 2009, eight major projects were completed, including renovation of four playgrounds and two playfields, along with wetland and entry improvements at Magnuson Park and beach restoration at Chinook Beach Park. In 2010, eleven projects were completed, including five playground renovations and three field renovations. The Seattle Children’s PlayGarden project was also completed, a year round facility for children with special needs, as well as improvements to Queen Anne Boulevard and renovations at Camp Long.
These development projects not only provided new and improved spaces for Seattle residents to enjoy and reduced operating costs, they also provided jobs in design and construction, helping to cushion the effects of the recession.
Work began on in 2010 on the new Hubbard Homestead Park, which will convert a former park and ride lot at Northgate into a community urban park, as well as on the Sandel Playground.
Restoring forests and stream areas was a key part of the Levy program. Through 2010, levy funded programs deployed some 95,000 volunteer hours in restoring 126 acres in 70 p[arks across the City, removing invasive vegetation and planting seedlings and shrubs.
P-Patch Community Gardens
As I blogged about a few weeks ago, the levy’s $2 million allocation for new community gardens has been leveraged through the use of City-owned land to develop some 16 new gardens, projected to add some 250 new plots. And less than half of the funds have been committed. See http://conlin.seattle.gov/2011/04/14/parks-levy-making-it-happen-expanding-community-gardens/ for more details.
New Open Space
As Seattle’s population grows, it is crucial that we acquire open space before development drives up the cost and availability. So far, Levy funds have been used to acquire ten new properties, three neighborhood parks and seven additional green space properties.
The Council included $15 million in the Levy Opportunity Fund, designed to be available for new opportunities and citizen led projects that were perhaps a gleam in someone’s eye when the Levy project list was created, or emerged as a new priority. More than 100 proposals were submitted to the Oversight Committee, and the Council has now approved the Committee’s recommendations to allocate the first $7 million for 15 new projects, including Seattle’s first Woonerf (a traffic calmed neighborhood street where pedestrians have priority), and two new community farms. See http://conlin.seattle.gov/2011/01/27/new-urban-farms-in-parks-levy-opportunity-fund/ for more details.
Success for People – and Nature
Seattle’s voters strongly supported the Parks Levy in 2008, in the throes of the first months of this recession. These investments in our future are being realized all over the City – 72 projects are completed or in process, with more to come in the remaining four years of the Levy. This is a great demonstration of our commitment to wonderful neighborhoods and a healthy environment.
For a poster showing all of the projects completed and underway, visit http://www.cityofseattle.net/parks/levy/default.htm