Citizens and city mull $8-13 million in projects for parks levy

Reporter staff

Twenty-some stakeholders added cost estimates to priority lists Jan. 9 as they determined which park-fields-trails and open space projects to recommend the council put to public vote May 20.

Stakeholders represent varying park neighborhoods, community groups, age groups and recreational interests, and are chaired by Don Cohen, an Open Space Conservancy Trust activist.

Consensus was reached on Luther Burbank shoreline restoration and waterfront access improvements; increasing vegetation management (especially ivy and blackberry control) Islandwide, but particularly at Pioneer Park; improving playability of ball fields at Island Crest Park and South Mercer; designating a small dogs park separate from the Luther Burbank one for all dogs; and restoring Ellis Pond and its trails.

More information was requested to consider a Gallagher Hill trail and an improved connector trail from Downtown to Luther Burbank. A suggested small boat program could be incorporated into the larger waterfront access provision, but was not singled out per se.

Gleaning cost estimates from the city’s Master Plan, the totals in today’s dollars for the priority project list could range from $8 to $13 million, to be levied over nine years. Blair Rasmussen suggested researching matching funds and other partnership strategies for some projects, and checking with the school district to see what will be included in its 2009 capital ballot issue, such as elementary school field improvements.

“You’ll probably have to cut some of your ideas,” said City Manager Rich Conrad. “And we’ll have to package the items with more specificity. I want it known that these cost estimates are ballpark figures and will change from today’s dollars as time passes and as projects are refined.”

The ballpark cost to taxpayers for the scope of the parks-fields-trails levy discussed would be as much as $126 per year or more, based on a $1 million home, according to Finance Director Chip Corder.

Once the stakeholders’ final report goes to City Council Jan. 22, a survey of 400 Island citizens will ensue in February. Council will discuss the parks levy at its annual retreat Saturday, Jan. 26, and is scheduled to take action March 17.

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