Budget includes $3.83M to expand activities for Stilly Valley youth

ARLINGTON — Local parks, trails, ballfields and the crowded Boys &Girls Club building are about to be upgraded thanks to a state spending package focused on young people in the Stillaguamish Valley.

The state budget, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on June 30, includes $3.83 million for the Stilly Valley Youth Project. The venture has four major pieces in Arlington and Darrington geared toward upping the number of activities available for kids and teens.

The state money helps make up for fundraising efforts that were put aside after the deadly Oso mudslide in March 2014, Snohomish County Councilman Ken Klein said.

“This was such a community effort in response to the mudslide,” he said. “We know that everybody’s extra resources were going to recovery and to those who were affected. These projects were going to sit on the shelf for three, four, five years.”

The biggest part of the project is expanding the Arlington Boys &Girls Club. When the club opened downtown in 1974, the city’s population was about 2,000, said Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of the Boys &Girls Clubs of Snohomish County. Now, more than 2,000 children use the club at 18513 59th Ave. NE, built in 1992.

“It clearly doesn’t have all the space we need for the number of kids who go there,” Tsoukalas said.

The plan is to double the size of the building. Designs include a second gymnasium, a larger entryway, a computer lab, an updated teen center and office space for the Arlington Family Resource Center, which opened in May at the Stillaguamish Senior Center.

About 35 people stopped in last month looking for help, said Crisann Brooks, director of family support for Lutheran Community Services. The center offers information and referral programs for people who need social services.

“What’s unique is that we serve the entire family,” Brooks said. “To see real development in youth, it’s critical to serve the whole family.”

The Stilly Valley Youth Project also directed $742,000 toward building two new tournament-quality little league fields near the Boys &Girls Club and installing artificial turf on two existing fields.

Another $1 million has been set aside for the Whitehorse Trail, a 27-mile-long corridor between Arlington and Darrington. Officials have been talking about paving the entire stretch, Klein said.

“That would be huge for bicyclists,” he said.

In Darrington, the state money means a skate park that’s been in the works for nearly five years finally can be built at Old School Park on the corner of Givens Avenue and Riddle Street. The budget includes $592,000 for the skate park and other work at Old School Park.

Project coordinators aren’t sure when they’ll break ground. Though the Legislature approved funding, it takes time for money to be distributed.

“It’s a whole lot of I-don’t-knows-yet,” said Kurt Helling, volunteer project coordinator for Skate Darrington, the nonprofit group behind the skate park. The park also has been promised funding through another grant program in the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

Old School Park is slated for a full overhaul, with a new basketball court, resurfaced tennis courts, renovated ballfield, new walkways and fresh landscaping along with the skate park.

“I’ll be happy when we can finally break ground,” Helling said. “Everything is on track and now it’s really just down to the details.”

If things go smoothly, the expansion of the Boys &Girls Club and the Arlington ballfields could be done by fall 2016, Tsoukalas said.

Having safe places to go and things to do is vital for children who struggled to understand the devastation of last year’s mudslide, which killed 43 people and wiped out a neighborhood.

“The kids saw their world fall apart with Oso,” Tsoukalas said. “They really thought the world was coming to an end. This is a way for the adults to let the kids know that they care about them.”

The original Stilly Valley Youth Project, recommended in Inslee’s draft budget in December, was a $5.25 million proposal. It included a new track and multipurpose center at Darrington High School. Legislators cut that piece.

“It just wasn’t very far along,” Klein said. “We’ll definitely keep working on that. We just had some projects that were shovel-ready and we really tried to focus on those.”

Representatives from Arlington, Darrington, Snohomish County, the Boys &Girls Club, the local Little League program and Skate Darrington plan to meet in the coming weeks to finalize plans.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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