There’s something really gratifying about building a bridge, opening a new road or cutting the ribbon on a new neighborhood park. The community can rally around it. It might be iconic piece that informs the identity of the neighborhood or city. Children will play on it and their smiling faces are a testament to its success. Capital projects are often physical examples of a problem solved or a community improved. Take that improvement to a smaller scale and it’s not quite so glamorous. All year round, City of Seattle Parks staff clean, trim, repair, weed, scrub, replace and tend parks and open spaces and there’s no ribbon cutting for a repaired bench. Yet it is these small, daily investments that sustain place over the long-haul, a universally acknowledged truth that isn’t often reflected during budget season. On the contrary, securing stable funding for regular maintenance and long-term care of existing park assets is a challenge.
Cities around the nation have tried all manner of methods to keep up their park and open space assets, including installing pay-to-play lights at basketball courts for evening games! Seattle takes great pride in its parks and open spaces and this year voters passed the Proposition 1 establishing the Seattle Parks District to provide long-term funding and management of Seattle’s beautiful and health-giving legacy. The passage of the Parks District has already sent a message to cities all over the country and they are asking Seattleites how they did it.
So, let’s rewind a bit and see how we got to ballot in the first place. To chart the best course forward for Parks, the City of Seattle convened a Parks Legacy Plan Citizens’ Advisory Committee. As a Seattle Parks Commissioner, the co-founder of the Open Space 2100 effort and an active member of the community in support of Parks, Brice was asked to serve on this committee. For approximately one year, the volunteer committee met to evaluate the needs of the current park system, make recommendations for an appropriate level of funding and determine the ideal funding mechanism (i.e. levy or metropolitan parks district). The quality work they did and the personal investment of each participant paid off at the ballot box. And though winning the Parks District measure was probably enough reward for the committee, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation recognized each member on Tuesday at their annual Denny Awards event. Congratulations to Brice and the rest of the committee, particularly the co-chairs Charlie Zargoza and Barbara Wright, for this recognition of their smart, hard work and for his lasting contribution to the Seattle Parks’ Legacy. That’s powerful stuff. It’s time to cut a ribbon on repairs!