Islanders split on parks measures

Island voters split over the approval of two ballot measures that would put more money into local parks. While voters denied a multi-million dollar capital improvement bond that would have restored much of Luther Burbank Park and replaced some soggy ballfields with artificial surfaces, they supported an annual maintenance levy for the next 15 years.

The $900,000-per-year levy will go toward the upkeep of Luther Burbank Park, some reforestation projects and maintaining school ballfields. About $128,000 of these funds were planned to maintain the investments made in the bond, and the City Council may choose not to collect the full amount as a result.

Both ballot measures actually received a majority of the vote, around 54 percent, but the 20-year capital improvement bond lacked the super majority that it needed to pass. The bond and levy had received more than 5,700 votes in favor by Friday afternoon.

Councilmember Dan Grausz said he was pleased that a majority of Islanders supported both measures and that city officials would come up with a new plan for future improvements.

“This is definitely very positive,” Grausz said of the levy passing. “We will be able to keep up Luther Burbank and restore some of Pioneer Park. There will be some money for school recreation programs. I’m very happy that part got approved.”

The largest amount of the levy will continue the current Luther Burbank levy that was approved five years ago after the city acquired the park from the county. The new levy will supply $370,000 to fund annual operations and maintenance at existing levels.

The levy will also provide about $77,000 to restore the health of Pioneer Park by removing diseased trees and invasive species while replanting new native vegetation. The city will use $65,000 annually for open space vegetation management that restores the health of open space similar to Pioneer Park.

The second largest chunk of the levy, or $260,000, will be used for school-related Parks and Recreation activities that include scheduling school district facilities and maintaining school fields.

Without the super majority support for the capital improvement bond, Grausz said the simple majority vote made it clear that the city should look for different ways to fund future improvements.

“I think that the majority of Islanders do support capital improvements,” Grausz said. “That tells us we have to find a different way to fund it, probably one less aggressive.”

The bond would have spent 53 percent of the $12 million on projects at Luther Burbank Park, mostly shoreline and wetland restoration. Repairs and improvements on the waterfront and playground were included as well. There was also a small amount of funds reserved for planned renovations at Mary Wayte Pool.

The City Council decided to put the measures on the ballot after a study completed in late 2007 determined that the Island contains enough fields in number, but they were not in adequate condition during most of the year. The poor conditions reduced the playability of many — leaving the city with a shortage of availability. The capital bond planned to spend about $4 million on field restoration by adding all-weather artificial turf surfaces at the South Mercer Playfields and Island Crest Park.

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