Mayor unveils $47 million Seattle Park District plan for 2016

Mayor Ed Murray today unveiled his proposal for $47 million in Seattle Park District funding as part of his 2016 budget. This is the first full year of investments made through the district approved by voters in August 2014.

“Years of deferred maintenance and lack of major investment has taken its toll on Seattle Parks and Recreation facilities,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “In 2016, we will launch a major round of improvements to community centers, open spaces and facilities across the system.”

“The Seattle Park District helps ensure that the city’s great parks and recreation legacy will be around for generations of Seattle residents to enjoy,” said Jesús Aguirre, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent.

“I am so pleased about the improvements to our city parks and programs that will result from the Park District,” said Barbara Wright, Vice Chair of the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners. “After the year-long efforts of the Parks Legacy Citizens’ Advisory Committee, which I chaired with Charlie Zaragoza, it is extremely gratifying to know the city is moving forward with the commitment of Park District funds to taking care of what we have, improving the lives of people in the community and preparing for our future.”

A map of the proposed investments through the Seattle Park District can be found here.

Two-thirds of the new funding, $31 million dollars, will target deferred maintenance at existing facilities:

  • Install new play equipment at playgrounds, completing 3 projects in 2016 and starting 7 others.
  • Begin the rehabilitation of community centers throughout the city, with 7 centers currently being assessed for needed repairs.
  • Repair and upgrade the Ballard Pool.
  • Install synthetic turf on the Brighton Playfield.
  • Repair priority sections of the Burke-Gilman Trail.
  • Support the Green Seattle Partnership and the thousands of volunteers planting trees and removing invasive species to restore the urban forest.
  • Contribute to major renovations at Woodland Park Zoo.

Across the City, 24 facilities will benefit from major maintenance projects next year. In order to avoid disruptions to programming during the day, the City will add a third shift of journeyman trades people who will work at night to fix leaky plumbing, repair ceiling tiles and clean drains. The work will put facilities on a two-year maintenance cycle, rather than the current five to seven-year cycle.

Visitors will also notice that 41 of the busiest park restrooms across the system will benefit from twice as many cleanings during times of peak use.

The mayor also announced $4 million to develop new culturally relevant programming to serve an additional 6,000 Seattle residents across the system.

“Our parks facilities are only as good as the programs that fill the spaces – educational courses, the arts, physical fitness, child care and early childhood education,” said Murray. “We will establish new community partnerships to improve access to programming for communities of color and other underserved populations, for young people, for our elders.”

To support equity of access, the budget adds $400,000 in scholarships to offset program fees for low-income families and individuals.

Parks will form innovative community partnerships to bring more opportunities for young people, including youth with disabilities, to support after-school programs and over-night camps. New community partnerships will also support physical fitness activities for adults and children. A successful pilot project for seniors experiencing dementia will be expanded, as will other programs for seniors, with a special focus on serving immigrants and refugees.

Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture will launch “Put the Arts in Parks” with 40 exhibits and performances to renew the cultural role of City parks.

The City will build on the successful public-private partnership that is activating Westlake Park by working with community organizations to activate other urban parks with music, games and the arts, such as Hing Hay, Freeway and Victor Steinbrueck.

Finally, the Seattle Park District will invest $9 million in 2016 to acquire new properties, enhance existing facilities, and develop new parks to serve a growing city.

“We expect 120,000 new Seattle residents over the next 20 years,” said Murray. “We must expand our system to meet that need.”

In partnership with King County Conservation Futures, Parks will purchase additional land for future open space in growing urban centers and urban villages where most new Seattle residents will live. Existing land-banked sites in Seattle’s urban villages will be developed, beginning in Lake City, Greenwood-Phinney, Fremont, Denny Triangle and North Rainier.

Community groups can apply for matching funds to renovate or expand existing parks facilities through a new Major Projects Challenge Fund.