King County "Mothballing" 39 Parks, More Than A Third Of Which Are In The Highline Area; What Do YOU Think? 3by Ralph Nichols

It’s déjà vu all over again. Closed parks and pools, on top of program and job cuts, have been proposed by the King County executive to balance next year’s operating budget. But that was then, when Ron Sims was county executive and the 2003 budget was on the table.

Seven years later, Kurt Triplett, Sims’ former chief of staff, is interim county executive. And the second verse is same as the first. (Actually the third verse when last year’s cuts in the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices and the court system are included.)

Triplett recently proposed “mothballing” 39 parks in unincorporated urban areas in King County – more than a third of them in the Highline area. But even if all parks on his hit list were to be closed, which some Highline officials and volunteers consider unlikely, five parks and maybe a sixth would remain open.

Those parks are in the “south” part of the North Highline unincorporated area, which residents there decided on Tuesday will be become part of the city of Burien. That transition is expected to occur early next year.

King County "Mothballing" 39 Parks, More Than A Third Of Which Are In The Highline Area; What Do YOU Think? 4

More than a third of the parks proposed to be "mothballed" by King County are in the Highline area.

North Highline parks that will be annexed by Burien are:

  • Arbor Lake Park, So. 124th Street and 4th Ave So.
  • Hazel Valley Park, SW 126th Street and 2nd Ave SW
  • Hilltop Park, So. 128th Street and 26th Ave So.
  • Puget Sound Park, 126th Street SW and 1st Ave So.
  • Salmon Creek Park, SW 118th Street and 8th Ave SW

Southern Heights Park, So. 120th Street and 14th Avenue So., also in the annexation area, has been leased and maintained by the county but is owned by Water District 20. There is no immediate indication about the district’s plan for this park.

Triplett said mothballing the parks would reduce general fund expenses by $4.6 million. The county faces a $56.4 million shortfall in projected tax revenues and the executive and council are looking for ways to balance the budget to maintain 2009 service levels.

King County Councilman Dow Constantine of West Seattle, whose district includes North Highline and most of Burien, reacted swiftly with a statement opposing Triplett’s plan. Constantine, who finished second in the August 18 primary election contest for county executive – and will face former KIRO-TV anchor Susan Hutchison in November – currently serves as council chairman.

“I am opposed to Executive Triplett’s proposal to cut all funding for King County parks in the urban unincorporated areas,” Constantine said. “Parks are important to the health and quality of life of everyone in the communities in which King County provides basic services – especially to our young people. To eliminate these parks with the stroke of a pen when economic times get tough would be short-sighted.”

He said “all other possible cuts” – including reductions in administrative staff – and “innovative budget solutions” need to be explored “before we consider the elimination of direct services to King County residents. I have laid out a set of ideas to serve as a starting point for substantive discussions by the King County Council to create a balanced 2010 budget without raising taxes or cutting funding for urban unincorporated parks”

Hutchison could not be reached for comment.

Triplett’s proposal addresses only parks with maintenance financed through the general fund. They total approximately 610 acres and have a total assessed value of $57 million. It would not affect King County’s regional parks and trails, which are funded through the County Parks levy.

“Taxpayers have paid for these parks, and I am open to any proposal from the cities or others to transfer ownership for free,” said Triplett. “As part of the effort to encourage annexations, the state has given these cities tax options the county does not have.”

King County "Mothballing" 39 Parks, More Than A Third Of Which Are In The Highline Area; What Do YOU Think? 5

Closed parks would have fences installed around perfectly-good playground equipment.

The 39 targeted parks will remain open for use but will not be maintained. In December, if this plan goes into effect, crews will fence playground equipment, lock and secure restrooms, post signs and lock gates in the closed parks.

Triplett said his priority is to shield public health and criminal justice services as much as possible but that all county departments will see budget cuts in 2010.

The other parks in the general Highline area on Triplett’s mothball list are:

  • Duwamish (River) Park – Site 1
  • Evergreen Athletic Field (and Evergreen Pool), 606 SW 116 Street
  • Hamm Creek Natural Area
  • Lakewood Park, 11050 10th Ave SW
  • North Shorewood Park, SW 102nd Street and 24th Ave SW
  • Sunset Playfield, So. 136th Street and 18th Ave So.
  • White Center Heights Park, SW 102nd Street and 7th Ave SW
  • White Center Pond Natural Area, SW 102nd Street and 12th Ave SW

So…what do YOU think about the county closing so many parks in our area? Please take our poll, or Comment below…

[poll id=”37″]