March 15

How will future of Seattle's parks affect Maple Leaf?



Did you catch the feature in last weekend’s Pacific Northwest magazine about the future — or perhaps lack thereof — of Seattle’s parks?

The piece, titled “Seattle’s parks in peril: the choices are to shrink, skimp or pay up,” paints a grim future that could make even the most optimistic Maple Leaf resident shudder.

Donna Hartmann-Miller, head of the Friends for a Greater Maple Leaf Park committee, expects to kick off fundraising for the new Maple Leaf Reservoir Park at the next Maple Leaf  General Meeting, from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at Olympic View Elementary, 504 N.E. 95th St.

Although the money mainly will be used for matching funds or to top off grants, we have to wonder if the supply of those grants is about to dry up, or if we should have more long-term concerns if Seattle Parks and Recreation continues to be unable to maintain its parks, as the article suggests. After all, the new Maple Leaf Reservoir Park will be adding 15 acres of parks space that will need to be maintained to the already 5.5-acre Maple Leaf Playground.

But that’s also a 20.5-acre park that Maple Leaf residents really want, and are willing to fight for. And maybe even pay up for.

Friends for a Greater Maple Leaf Park certainly hopes so, and its volunteers are mulling ideas to raise funds to build a park that will hopefully outlast the current economic downturn.

One of the more basic fundraising ideas is to simply accept donations, similar to the process public radio and television use, allowing businesses and community members to make a one-time donation or commit to a subscription, such as $10 a month.

A raffle for a tour of the empty reservoir is still on the table (although approval from Seattle Public Utilities still is needed), and don’t be surprised if you eventually see a “gourmet picnic” at the park on the auction block.

And because money also is needed for details such as street improvements on 14th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 82nd Street; trees; park furnishings such as trash bins and bike racks; and the Family Terrace, which could include a playground area, picnic area and more, there are plenty of other sponsorship options.

What kinds of park fundraisers would you be most likely to contribute to? And what is your opinion of the future of Seattle’s parks? If they really are in peril, how can we protect our own community gems?

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  1. Please don’t jump to conclusions that think this comment has some hidden union bashing agenda. That is not the case. I am just bringing up a point.

    I was talking with a friend of mine that is on a city council in WA about this issues and he said that many cities which have tried to reduce parks maintenance by having local citizens take over some of the maintenance duties have been unable to do so because it often violates union maintenance contracts. They say the unions will often file a grievance saying by doing so union jobs are be eliminated. It’s similar to why we have less and less volunteer fire fighters. The unions don’t like it.

    I am not sure this situation applies to our current parks and what the maintenance contracts are like, but its something to consider. Of course I don’t think they can physically stop citizens from showing up and maintaining the parks, but they can file suits against the city and cause legal headaches and expenses.

  2. @5 I’d hate to see the Maple Leaf water tower go, it pretty much defines our neighborhood like the Space Needle does Seattle. Up the fees to the sports teams that use the fields so it covers building and maintaining them. Leave the rest of it as simple and low maintenance as possible until the economy rebounds. Get local businesses or groups organized to do a park clean up 3-4 times a year and invite the all of us neighbors to help, those that use the park should definitely step up. Then we can talk about larger improvements when there’s more revenue again.

  3. I would support a localized property tax levy since we as property owners in the neighborhood benefit from having a great park nearby.

    In Europe I have visited cities such as Prague and parks in Germany where you actually have concessionaires selling food, beverages beer. This the lease/rights of a concessionaire could contribute revenue to the park. Perhaps with some reenforcement, an elavator and carving out we could turn the water tower into a place to enjoy some good local beer, food and enjoy the great food.

    After heavy rains it is concerning to see a flooded playground, the liability alone should be reason to find a permanent and sustainable solution for drainage there. We have to figure something out and likely not rely on city funding given the state of city budget.

    I look forward to enjoying our new park with our children and others in our community.

  4. Some kind of park levy would probably pass, in Seattle, but it’s not like the recession will last forever. In a couple of years, sales tax-based funding will be back up, so really all we need is a low-cost “holding pattern” for parks until the economy recovers and sales tax revenues increase again.

    We could save money by asking league teams using fields to groom them themselves on a volunteer basis, allowing teams to play on unwatered fields, and reducing the mowing schedule or having neighborhood volunteers do more mowing. Other than those things, I can’t think what other costs a park like Maple Leaf actually incurs (somebody help me out). I assume garbage pickup and grafitti removal are funded from other sources, but if not volunteers could handle grafitti overpainting a couple of times per year, and signs could be posted in lieu of trash cans asking people to pack back out what they bring in.

  5. I’m a big believer in community spaces and would happily pay higher taxes to support park maintenance. The trouble with user fees is that they will discourage people who can’t afford them from using the park at all, and I think the Maple Leaf park should be a place for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

  6. If people think that parks are just “free” and somehow their “right” as taxpayers to have free and unfettered access to them, they are sorely mistaken. When tax revenues start drying up, its inevitable that parks are going to take a hit and maybe they should; they are not a necessity like fire stations and roads. I’m in favor of any and all ways to raise money from the local neighborhood, including some sort of user-fee system like they have in some parts of the country. I’d hate to see gates put up and people having to show proof that they “paid to play” but it has to be equitable. Unless you can get a couple fat cat donors to float the bill for everyone, you should contribute if you’re going to use it. I’d gladly pay $10 a month, and if you got that from even a 1/3 of Maple Leaf households, maintenance problem solved.

  7. Something to do with dogs for an off leash area. Involve S.O.D.A. DOGGY day care, grooming, boarding, gift certificate for doggy stuff.

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