King County voters should approve a 4.9-cent levy May 20 to maintain the county’s parks and recreation system.
While the county faces a $25 million budget crisis, parks and recreation have endured their share of cutting back. In 2003, the County Parks Division cut $9.1 million — or 35 percent — from its budget, including more than 80 full time positions. This was following a nearly $1 million cut in the 2002 budget that included 30 full-time positions. Dozens of facilities were transferred over to cities and new entrepreneurial programs were launched such as the summer concert series at Marymoor Park to generate funding.
Despite all these aggressive cuts, a new revenue source in support of parks is still needed, officials say. The county is prioritizing and doesn’t want to use scarce general fund dollars on parks when human services and public health services are lacking funds. So it’s looked into finding another revenue source: a levy. Rejecting this levy will not force the county to spend the money out of the general fund, but instead, would surely close regional parks. County officials say if this additional funding source is not approved, regional parks could face closure.
The county maintains more than 25,000 acres of parks, trails and open space. In 2003, it has a budget of $16.4 million. The levy would cost the owner of a $250,000 home $12.25 a year and raise $48 million over four years to go toward operating and maintaining regional parks like the Burke Gilman Trail, Marymoor Park and Cougar Mountain Park.
If the levy passes, park users would see more frequent trash pick-up, restroom cleaning and litter pick-up, better maintenance of trails, playgrounds, ball fields and sports courts through more frequent mowing, prepping and washing.
Even though there are few regional parks in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, all county residents benefit by having them nearby and they are integral to the quality of life here. While it’s right to question budget practices and hold the county accountable, we shouldn’t penalize park users by shutting down parks. The public should be willing to invest a small amount to protect that legacy.