Bremerton accessible playground gets huge funding boost
Note: This could easily have gone on the Peninsular Thinking blog, but because of the conversation about state funding priorities at the end of this entry I decided to post it here.
We will have more information tomorrow about this, but wanted to get the early news out there.
Residents who have been trying to raise funds to build a playground accessible to handicapped children at Evergreen Rotary Park in Bremerton received word this week the city’s application for $211,350 in state grant funding was ranked the top project out of 44 applying for state money.
The decision was made by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.
We wrote about the idea in November when April Mills and Rebekah Uhtoff began raising funds for the playground. Both are parents of disabled children. Uhtoff’s son Gabe is in a wheelchair. Mills’ son Teddy has spina bifida.
The playground has wide pathways, for one thing, but is also made of synthetic materials to avoid causing problems for kids with latex allergies, a problem for kids with the same condition as Teddy’s. Mills and Uhtoff have always wanted to emphasize that that the playground is available to all kids, not just the handicapped. It just has features that make it possible for kids of all kinds to play together, something that isn’t possible on traditional playgrounds.
In 2011 the park was approved for a $162,000 Community Development Block Grant. I believe private funding would handle whatever’s left, but that’s a detail I need to run down.
Part of the process of getting the state grant involves making a presentation to state officials. Uhtoff and Mills attended, as did Colette Berna from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Bremerton’s score in the list of 44 projects was far and away the highest. The funding board considered the need, the scope of the project, the design and local support. Bremerton’s park received 63.89 points. In second place was an integrated playground in Gig Harbor with 59.22 points.
Bainbridge Island’s Rotary Park development project scored fifth with 53.33 points, the county scored 12th for South Kitsap Regional Park expansion and Port Orchard finished 32nd for Paul Powers Park development and 43rd for McCormick Village Park. The higher the project is on the list, the more likely the funding.
The Legislature has the authority to change the order of projects, but typically doesn’t. In most years Bremerton’s project would be a shoo-in for funding. Even Kitsap County, coming in 12th place, could have reason to be optimistic. We will have a new governor next year, though, so it might be a little tougher to predict now how a new state chief executive might look at funding priorities for projects like these.