Opinion

Supporting the Boys & Girls Club"s PEAK Project

By Mike Grady

Island Forum

Like many of you, I volunteer for community organizations with the expectation that we, as a community, can only succeed if we are supporting those most in need.

I coach at the Boys & Girls Club and at the local schools so that all of our children have the potential to develop skills to cope with the pressures of school and life and to develop healthy habits that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Our community is faced with a complex project that could enhance our ability to meet the daily needs of our children and families. Currently, our Boys & Girls Club serves more than 2,100 youth on the Island (approximately 75 percent of the K-8 youth population) The ``Late Night'' program, which runs on Friday and Saturday nights, attracts more than 200 Island teens. However, the current facility is antiquated, has limited space, and is unsafe

The proposed project is called PEAK (Positive Place for Kids & Teens Enrichment and Education Activities & Athletics Kinship & Community). The PEAK Project would develop a new facility between the School District Administration Building and Crest Learning Center and eventually would move the bus barn near the City Hall and create new playfields in its place. Open space and recreational areas would be increased. The facility would contain a mixture of classrooms and athletic facilities, including a state-of-the-art computer lab, before/after school childcare, four full-size gyms, and a teen center. All of these facilities will be utilized by School District, city Parks & Recreation, pre-schoolers, and adults.

Approximately two months ago, the Mercer Island School District voted unanimously to move ahead with preliminary design and permitting. However, there are complex issues to resolve that require your input, such as:

1. If we use public funds for a private organization, what is the quid pro quo or public benefit? Please consider that we provided pubic financing to build two stadiums totaling about $1 billion dollars for two private organizations, the Mariners and Seahawks.

2. We have limited open space on the Island. Why should we develop the existing site of the Boys &Girls Club and eliminate prime open space? If the bus barn is moved near the City Hall, and the land converted to play fields and a green belt planted to connect the new club with the high school, it could result in a net increase of open space for the city.

3. Don't we have enough space for kid's programs on Island? Anyone who has coached or sent their children to various sports programs on the Island has experienced the frustration in scheduling practice and game times for their events. We are an active and healthy community. What better investment in our future than to ensure our children and families are participating in healthy activities!

4. Isn't this just a School Board and Boys & Girls Club issue? The City Council has set-aside $1 million dollars and the School Board has set aside about $2 million dollars if the project is approved. The board and council will need our help to negotiate public access provisions for the project to ensure that children and adults will retain access to the facility.

How can we help?

We are a community of diverse backgrounds and talents. We traditionally come together and volunteer our time and resources to protect our community investments, to promote safe and healthy programs, and to plan for responsible growth. There are many unresolved issues with the PEAK Project, but with our collective help, I believe we can make this a shining star for our community.

Rich in saving common-sense,

And, as the greatest only are,

In his simplicity sublime.

-- Tennyson

Finally, I urge you to contact your community leaders and get involved in the PEAK planning process. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact myself at 275-2524 or michaelgrady21@hotmail.com; or Todd Bale, Boys & Girls Club executive director at 232-4548 or tbale@positiveplace.org, or your School Board or City Council members.

Island resident Mike Grady is a volunteer basketball coach for the Boys & Girls Club and a volunteer coach for the MIHS track team.

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