News

City considers parks, recreation district

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

The City of Sequim is pursuing park options that could include a parks and recreation district within the Sequim School District boundaries.

 

Jeff Edwards, city parks manager, said he is working on a Metropolitan Parks District proposal for voters to approve, but that could be at least a year.

 

“The reason we’re looking at this is to do more with the parks,” Edwards said. “We’re not going to do anything with Keeler Park until it’s paid off and open land is hard to come by. We don’t have funding to do anything. With this (proposal), funding goes straight to parks.”

 

In a Metropolitan Parks District, similar to Metro Parks Tacoma, an elected board of commissioners maintains parks and open spaces within Sequim School District boundaries that theoretically could include parks run by other agencies such as SARC, Clallam County’s Robin Hill Park and Washington’s Sequim Bay State Park.

 

Each entity would have to approve handing control over to the district, including the city. The commissioners would run the parks with this tax base and collected revenues.

 

Rather than city parks being paid for by Sequim’s 6,000-plus residents, the roughly 30,000 people in the Sequim-Dungeness area would vote for an ongoing tax on a district, Edwards said.

 

The voter-approved board of commissioners would operate as a separate entity from the city but the board would decide who runs operations. City staff could be chosen to run operations.

 

Currently, the city has one full-time, one part-time and one full-time seasonal staff worker devoted to the city’s parks operations.

 

“We have to ask what is best for the parks and if it is best to open it up to a bigger pocket,” Edwards said.

He said one advantage for city residents is that they already pay for the parks and a district could help improve the parks in the city because people from out of the area use city parks.

 

Edwards estimates that out-of-city residents make up more than half of Sequim Dog Park users, for example.
 
Early discussion

City councilors discussed parks and recreation options at their March 9 retreat.

 

City Manager Steve Burkett said determining a parks and recreation future has been a council goal for a while and forming a metro district is the most logical option.

 

“It’s on the long list for the city to do but it’s not something the city is proposing this year or even next year,” Burkett said. “We can’t do everything at once.”

 

Edwards said the project is a long time away and a lot of questions remain about public and other entities’ support.

 

A city parks and recreation survey that went out in the summer revealed people are split on determining among a parks and rec district, a city parks department or neither:
• 32 percent voted against both
• 30 percent voted for a regional parks and recreation district
• 29 percent want both a district and a city parks department
• 9 percent opted for a parks department only.
However, 68 percent want some kind of parks organization.

When asked what they’d spend, at a maximum, on a parks and recreation district, 47 percent of people said they would spend $1 to $5; 25 percent said they would spend $6 or more and 33 percent said they wouldn’t spend anything.

 

Before any proposal goes to the city council and eventually to voters, the city’s parks and recreation board must approve the concept.

 

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

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