Kingston Project Dependent on Park Grants —

Kingston Project Dependent on Park Grants

By Derek Sheppard; Feb. 16, 2007 © Kitsap Sun,

Hopes for the Village Green project rest, for now, on the the state Legislature's eventual cutoff point for park funding.

Kingston

A parks advocacy group is pushing for more money than Gov. Chris Gregoire has requested this year for parks.

And it points to a Kingston project that may be denied any state funding without the Legislature going above and beyond Gregoire’s budget.

The project is a park and community center planned for the middle of Kingston called the Kingston Village Green.

"It really is right on the line," said Joanna Grist, Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition executive director.

The line she speaks of is a cutoff for state funding for parks projects around Washington administered through grants from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has requested $70 million in WWRP grants, while Grist’s group is advocating a bump to $100 million. Grist is optimistic the Legislature will bump up the funding level, but she and lawmakers are waiting to see what direction the budgeting process takes.

If the grants are bumped up to $100 million, the Kingston project is the last on the list that would receive money — $500,000.

Even if the Legislature can’t find an extra $30 million, there’s a possibility that the Kingston project could get the money if other projects above it drop out — if an amount more than $70 million is allocated.

If it doesn’t receive money, Kitsap County can reapply in 2008, when the project will be weighed again against all other new applications.

"We need that money to keep moving forward," said Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen, who represents Kingston.

The grant would help pay the county back for a $1.75 million purchase it made a year ago to buy Navy housing off West Kingston Road that will be the site of the community center.

The plan is to develop a park and trail network around the community center.

"It’s the heart of the town," Endresen said.

Even if the grant funding doesn’t come through, it doesn’t mean an end to the project, just a delay, Endresen said. The money would allow the county and community to move forward with development and construction plans.

Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said a coalition of lawmakers and park advocates is pushing hard for the increase in grant funding.

The Village Green project could be a candidate for other funding if the WWRP grants aren’t increased, Rolfes said.

Grist and lawmakers hope the funding gets bumped up for a variety of reasons. She said the parks grants have remained at nearly the same funding level since 1990, and two new categories — farmland and stream-side habitat preservation — were added in 2005. That means more projects now compete for grants.

Applications are accepted every two years, and a record of more than $150 million in requests came in for this round.

It’s a "no-pork" process, she said, because an independent committee creates the list of projects to get grants. Legislators cannot arrange the projects as they see fit.

"That helps guarantee that only the best projects get funded," Grist said.

Like everything else in Olympia, it’s a balancing act as both houses begin budget-tuning next month.

Rolfes said priorities for extra money have focused on health care and education.

"It all comes down to the budget in the end," she said.

"If we have $30 million, this is a good cause."

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