This blog features highlights from the Parks and Neighborhoods committee meeting of April 5, 2012. (See the meeting on video instead.)
Funding opportunities for local parks projects
Reminder! The technical assistance workshops for the Parks Opportunity Fund are coming up at the end of May.
These workshops are open to anyone interested in learning about how to propose a park development project or acquisition. $8 million is available this cycle. Find out more about the application process, the workshops and the fund here.
Department of Neighborhoods
DoN was represented by program manager Pamela Banks (who is shortly to leave the city after 30 years of public service to become the CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, where she will be fantastic, but we will miss her terribly). Three of our District Coordinators, Christa Dumpys, Ed Pottharst, and Thomas Whittemore joined as as well. We know our neighborhoods city-wide depend on the District Coordinators and we greatly appreciate what they do.
Large Project Fund
Pamela Banks reminded us about a DoN funding opportunity – the Large Project Fund. The final application deadline will be July 16, and there are three workshops in April to provide information about building community relationships around a project. Please note, if you want to apply to the Large Project Fund, you must attend one of the three workshops.
Christa Dumpys briefed us on a promising pilot program she created that DoN is launching this month, the People’s Academy for Community Engagement (PACE), which is designed to help emerging leaders develop the skills to be highly effective.
The PACE Curriculum offers seven sessions over seven months, with hands-on homework in between. The curriculum focuses on very practical subjects, such as public speaking, resource development, event planning, and more, material that will covered by facilitators recruited from community groups, non-profit organizations, and City of Seattle Departments.
The pilot has 30 slots, and includes monitoring, reporting, and evaluating along the way to help gauge its success. Graduates will get a full year of support in a mentoring relationship after they finish the course. This first class has been selected, and I expect another program to be offered in the future. A special word of thanks to Seattle University for donating space on their campus for this program.
More from DoN: Department of Neighborhoods Director’s Report.
Kathy Whitman presented Parks’s response to the Rowing and Sailing Centers SLI, in which Council asked them to examine options for long term, stable funding of the Green Lake and Mount Baker Rowing & Sailing Centers.
Council passed the SLI to identify potential funding sources for these Centers, which host hugely popular and successful programs that serve around 73,000 people a year.
The department put together a Boating Action Team advisory committee comprised of seven citizens, an Associated Recreation Council (ARC) representative, and Parks staff, which looked at alternative management models:
- Non profit management
- Non-profit lease
- Long-term lease to a for profit entity
After evaluating these models, the department concluded that the current operational model should stay in effect. The Rowing & Sailing Centers rely on the General fund for approximately 10-15% of their operations, an investment from the general fund that leverages more than $1 million in outside funding—making the program extremely cost-effective for the City.
Parks decided that staying with a month-to-month or class-based fee system was preferable to moving to a membership model because it encourages more people to row and sail. (Memberships in local private clubs can cost up to $1200 a year). Parks also considered the possibility of generating revenue the way some private clubs do, by renting boats or renting rack space, but decided against pursuing those options for now.
The volunteers who work for the Rowing and Sailing Centers contribute greatly to the program. For example, we learned that the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center volunteer Advisory Council participated in the largest Opportunity Fund project in the city to renovate their upper floor public meeting space. This space can now also function as a rental space to generate a significant amount of revenue.
We heard some wonderful stories about lives of youth transformed by rowing and sailing classes, including one about a high school freshman cancer survivor who responded to the high expectations and demanding hours of the Green Lake rowing program with joy and enthusiasm. More than two-thirds of Green Lake’s participants are youth, including summer camps for youth 11 and older, and programs for 170 teen participants every day after school.
And of course, the Centers serve others as well. Kathy’s presentation showed a diverse population out on the water, and we heard about one masters-level eight-person shell that races out of Mount Baker in which every rower in the boat has at least one replacement body part. I took rowing lessons about 25 years ago and look forward to getting back to it one of these days.
Thanks to Phil Defliese and Sean McCorkle, citizen members of the Advisory Councils and current officers for the Centers, for coming to the table, and to everyone who contributed to the collection of Rowing and Sailing stories that reminded us of the value of these facilities.
We passed three council bills out of committee for vote by Full Council:
1) Cascade People’s Center
Last year, Parks put together a formal Request for Proposal process for a private partner to operate the Cascade People’s Center. The YMCA was the successful respondent and began operating the Center last summer on a month-to-month basis. We heard citizen feedback that the YMCA’s outreach efforts and programming have been very successful so far.
Sarah Simpson of the YMCA, who has been doing excellent outreach work at the center, told us about meeting community members, residents, business owners to discuss volunteer opportunities and community needs. Especially of interest:
- BOLD and GOLD (Boys and Girls Outdoor Leadership Development) programs for youth
- Zumba and yoga classes onsite
- Working with Microsoft to create volunteer opportunities for that organization’s Day of Caring, hosting the P-Patch meetings
- Providing computer access to community members
- Supporting Americorps volunteers.
I stopped by the center recently and met some of the Americorps volunteers. What a terrific group.
The Cascade People’s Center legislation authorized the Parks Superintendent to enter into a 5-year agreement, with options to extend, with YMCA of Greater Seattle to operate and manage the Center. Charles Ng in Parks explained that the lease requires the YMCA to provide a minimum of 10 hours of maintenance services for the facilities, calls on the YMCA to provide 20 hours a month of public meeting space, to form an Advisory Council to ensure that programs meet the needs of the public, to coordinate community volunteer efforts, and to offer outdoor programs for boys and girls during the summer months.
2) The Transfer of Property from FAS to Parks legislation transferred jurisdiction of 25 properties, representing about 17 acres, to be used for open space, park, and recreation purposes to Parks from FAS. You can see them in the presentation; they include parcels located within or adjacent to Magnolia, Northeast Queen Anne, West Duwamish and East Duwamish Greenbelts; parcels located within or adjacent to Duwamish Head, Cheasty and Longfellow Creek Greenspaces; parcels located within or adjacent to Maple School Natural Area; parcels adjacent to Interlaken, Jefferson and Schmitz Parks; an underwater tideland parcel off Alki Point; and a view parcel in Magnolia.
A major way that Parks acquires space is through the transfer of properties to Parks from other City departments—in fact we’ve transferred more than 200 acres since the early 90s. The City wants to preserve these lands in their natural state, and that is best handled by Parks. Most of the spaces in this legislation are adjacent to existing parks.
3) Acquisition for park in Greenwood This legislation authorized parks to purchase 3 parcels comprising about 9000 square feet on the 8100 block Greenwood Avenue North, next to the Greenwood Library, for future development into park space. The property was selected through a public process that involved people in the Greenwood and Phinney neighborhoods, an area that had been identified as deficient in open space relative to Comprehensive Plan goals. The department will enter into leases with three businesses currently on the sites, until future funding is available to develop the sites into a park.
Details are here in the Greenwood Acquisition Memo.
Thanks to Christopher Williams and his team for the great work they do on our 6000+ acres of parks in our city!