How to Pay for Parks?

In last two years funding for the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation was reduced in the Seattle City budget.  As a result some staff  was laid off, programs and hours of availability were reduced, and some maintenance was deferred.  This has led to renewed interest in how to fund our parks and community centers.  An article in the March 6 Seattle Times Pacific Magazine describes the challenge of creating new  facilities through levies but not providing ongoing funding for operations and maintenance.

Recently the Seattle Parks Foundation and several other organization published a study on this topic.  One of the recommendations to increase funding was creating a Metropolitan Parks District (MPD), a legal entity that the State Legislation made possible a few years ago.  Several other cities in Washington have done so in recent years.  Other funding options include more efficiency in operations, special levies, and user fees. The option of implementing a Metropolitan Parks District has been discussed for some time.  Recently an analysis of the MPD idea was pubished on the Seatle Community Council Federation blog. 

The back and forth dialog on the topic of funding our parks system is just starting, and will likely heat up as the next budget cycle takes place.  As noted in the Seattle Times Pacific Magazine article, there is a wide range of opinions among decision makers, and some don’t feel the problem has as high a priority as funding other projects and services.

1 Comments on “How to Pay for Parks?”

  1. Dear Seattle Parks advocate—

    Many of us have seen a message from the Seattle Parks Foundation with a “survey” on parks financing that unfortunately is written to encourage premature endorsement of a number of “solutions” that would do real harm to our parks by removing them from the public’s control through unaccountable new entities. The survey refers to a seriously flawed report (at http://www.seattleparksfoundation.org/Sustaining_Parks.html).
    While there are good things in the report (especially its analysis of the financial needs of our parks and how the Mayor and City Council have increasingly starved them of funds), its rosy picture of the parks under future special districts and privatization is a dangerous distraction from getting our Mayor and City Council to better protect parks in their budget decisions.

    I suggest that the survey be avoided until the options are better analyzed in a revised report and more fairly described in a future survey. The report’s most serious flaw is its advocacy for a Seattle “Metropolitan Park District,” a state chartered entity that (like the ill-fated Monorail Authority) wouldn’t be bound by the Seattle City Charter, ordinances, regulations, City boards (including the Park Board), or any of the other protections for our parks that Seattle has built up over more than a century. I’ve put together an analysis of the report for Parks and Open Spaces Advocates that you can find at http://seattlefederation.blogspot.com (web site of the Seattle Community Council Federation). If you have trouble locating my analysis, would like it e-mailed directly to you, or have questions or suggestions, please contact me. Let’s all work toward a future for our parks that is financially secure but also does not undermine the public’s ability to access and protect them!

    Chris Leman
    cleman@oo.net or (206) 322-5463

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