EDITORIAL: Parks key to good communities
When the Legislature convenes in January, much of its attention will be on funding for education and transportation, and rightly so.
But those aren't the only budget issues worth the attention of lawmakers.
A quick primer on the state budget process: Legislators must adopt, along with the much larger operating budget, a capital budget that provides funding for construction and acquisition of public schools, state buildings, public parks and more. Funded primarily through the sale of bonds, the capital budget for the 2015-17 biennium is expected to be about $2 billion. Gov. Jay Inslee will issue his budget recommendations, which are based on requests from each of the state's agencies, to the Legislature in December.
The state's Recreation and Conservation Office, through its Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, is recommending about $97 million in projects throughout the state that include acquisition and development of parks, trails and waterfront access and conservation of farmland and fish and wildlife habitat.
Of the $97 million sought in the capital budget, $5.3 million would provide a portion of the funding for 10 projects in Snohomish County, including: $1 million to help Edmonds purchase the Civic Center Fields from the Edmonds School District, with athletic fields and courts already in use by the community and home to the Boys & Girls Club; $614,000 for water access improvements, including a new boat launch, at Wenberg County Park; and $500,000 to renovate fields at Everett's Kasch Park.
In all cases, said Tom Teigen, parks director for Snohomish County, the state money provides leverage to secure matching money from cities, counties and other agencies.
The $97 million represents a fraction of the more than 200 projects around the state that requested grant funding. The coalition, after meeting with the governor and legislators, evaluated and ranked the submitted projects and prepared its request. It likely won't get all $97 million it seeks. In the last budget request, the program sought $90 million, which the governor revised to $75 million and Legislature whittled down to $65 million. Needless to say, there are Snohomish County projects that are on the bubble and could be cut depending on the final appropriation.
Since, 1990, the coalition's grant program has provided funding for 62 projects in Snohomish County, totaling $30.2 million, including the Centennial and Interurban trails, Martha Lake Park and estuary restoration of Smith Island.
As with good roads and good schools, the parks and other projects, past and proposed, are part of what makes Snohomish County attractive to businesses looking to bring and keep jobs here. And it's what makes our communities enjoyable places to live.