Opinion

Is it time for a parks advisory board?

Considering that parks have been a hot-button issue for many on Mercer Island in the last few years -- the future of Luther Burbank, opening Island Crest and Clise parks to cell towers, and the health of the vegetation in parks and open spaces in general -- it may be a good time for the city to consider resurrecting a citizen advisory board to the City Council regarding parks.

There once was an advisory board regarding parks: the Parks Board. Its eight members studied and considered projects and improvements for parks, such as acquiring parks and developing master plans, and made recommendations to the City Council. Members were appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council.

A $2 million levy to improve and repair Mercer Island parks was studied and deliberated for months by the board. The 20-year levy passed in 1983.

Along with the Library Board and the Road and Trails Board, the Parks Board was discontinued in 1995.

Though much of the recent heightened interest in parks lately could be a blip on the radar, a citizen advisory board would give community members another opportunity to air their concerns and serve as a buffer and filter to the City Council.

The board could represent the community's divergent views, as shown in public comments regarding Luther Burbank Park. Some support limited development, while others are passionate about keeping the park as natural as possible.

A drawback could be the time city employees would have to devote to staff such a board. Or maybe the Open Space Conservancy Trust, which advises the council on Pioneer Park, could take on a similar role as a Park Board for the entire Island.

Considering how important parks are to the Island's quality of life, a parks advisory board for the council may be an idea whose time has come again.

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