“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
by Tyler Mangrum
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Despite a year of ruthless budget cuts in the wake of the federal sequester, 69 percent of King County voters opted to renew the parks levy, known as Proposition 1, and keep the thousands of acres of green space in King County funded when the current levy expires at the end of the year.
Over 70 percent of the funding for King County’s 26,000 acres of open space, 175 miles of regional trails, and 185 miles of backcountry trails are currently funded through the levy. The remaining percentage of funds are then secured via entrance fees to events, such as concerts within Marymoor Park and swim meets at Federal Way’s aquatic center.
Given the central role that Seattle’s parks play in defining the character of the city, County Executive Dow Constantine responded to news of the levy’s passing with relief and adulation for county voters.
“King County voters have spoken clearly,” Constantine said. “We value our incredible system of 200 parks, hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails, thousands of acres of open space, and such regional gems as Marymoor Park and the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.”
County officials also assured voters that the total cost in taxes for the levy would be minimal, and primarily drawn from existing property taxes. For a King County property owner, the annual cost will amount to $0.35 per $1,000 assessed value for up to 8 years, meaning that the owner of a $300,000 home will pay less than $5 per month. The total revenue for King County Parks is currently estimated at $66 million per year from 2014 to 2019, amounting to a total of $396 million.
For the numerous parks on Capitol Hill, including Volunteer Park, Cal Anderson Park, Washington Park and Arboretum and Interlaken Park, the levy’s renewal ensures that neighborhood landmarks like the Volunteer Park Conservatory will be able to see renovations and basic maintenance to the existing infrastructure will continue.
The levy will also go towards the construction and acquisition of a number of new proposed parks throughout the neighborhood over the next few years, including the Broadway Hill Park at Federal Avenue East and East Republican Street. Dubbed an “Urban Center Village,” Broadway Hill Park will act as a front porch for Capitol Hill residents to meet and will include a large lawn, patio, numerous stone benches, seating alcoves with tables, and a barbeque pit. The park will also offer other community-centered amenities such as an extensive P-Patch network and garden sheds, and various walking paths, all of which will utilize sustainable architecture and storm water runoffs. Construction on the park is slated to begin at the start of next year.
Renewal of the levy came just after the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the King County Park system in 1938, when the Board of King County Commissioners passed Resolution No. 6725 to open the state’s first county park system. According to Constantine, the growth of the county parks system from a humble 150 acres to just over 26,000 acres is a testament to the region’s commitment to keeping the county as vibrantly green and environmentally friendly as possible.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 75th anniversary this year of King County Parks,” Constantine said. “Thank you to the voters who value our shared regional open space!”
The effort to keep the levy in place was spearheaded by a group of advocates called the King County Parks Levy Task Force that included King County Councilmember Louise Miller, Karen Daubert, Terry Lavender, Lynn Claudon, former Seattle Mayor Charley Royer, and Dee Frankfourth from the Trust for Public Lands.
“Thank you to the voters of King County for supporting our parks,” Constantine said. “In addition to the voters, thank you to all the members of the Parks Task Force, and the campaign steering committee. And of course, thank you to all the fine people who work for King County Parks – you all do a tremendous job keeping our parks green and vibrant. This is a great day for our parks, for the people of King County, and for the future of this region. Thank you.”