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Edmonds' Parks and Rec Department Takes Big Hit With New Budget

Seasonal labor, Frances Anderson Center, arts and beach ranger programs are all affected. Read on for what you can do to help.

The following is from Edmonds Parks and Recreation director Carrie Hite:

Now that the City Council has adopted the 2013 budget, there have been many e-mails and phone calls about what this all means to the City’s parks. This news release is meant to answer those questions, and give citizens options to help.

As many people know, Mayor Dave Earling had a hard task of providing a balanced budget in the face of a $1.5 million deficit. One of his charges was for each department to propose cuts of 4.5 percent.

Each department submitted budgets with a 4.5 percent reduction, in which the Mayor incorporated into his balanced budget. For the Parks department, this was hard to do without impacting service level to citizens.  

The budget reductions to the parks department include cutting seasonal labor that support parks and assists with the flower program, 1.5 full-time staff equivalent reduction at Frances Anderson Center, reduction of irrigation in neighborhood parks and ball fields, the arts program, and the beach ranger program during the summer months.

Citizens will still see the beautiful flower baskets lining the streets downtown, along the waterfront, and five corners area. In fact, we will be going from 133 baskets to 157, due to the additional baskets along the newly completed Main Street (from Fifth to Sixth avenues).

We have always been fortunate to have assistance from the Floretum Garden Club in planting the baskets, and we will continue to rely on this club to assist.  In addition, we will be using the $13,000 of donations collected last year during the successful adopt-a-flower basket program, to hire one seasonal laborer to assist with this program.

The area of the flower program that will be impacted most is the corner beds.  The parks crew has maintained 155 sites in downtown, city buildings and outlying sites and this will be reduced to 57 sites. We have anticipated budget reductions and this past fall planted perennials throughout these sites.

So even though some sites/corner beds will not get the attention once afforded, these sites will still have color in the spring and summer, albeit not as vivid as you get with planting annuals. In addition, citizens can expect to see less weeding and shaping happening throughout the season, with overgrowth a potential issue.

Again, the Parks Department is prepared to monitor the situation as the season progresses and will keep up with it as best we can.

In addition to the flower program impacts, eliminating all but one of the parks departement's seasonal staff will impact the seasonal mowing and garbage pickup, and across-the-board service level decline in parks, mostly in the high peak summer season.

There is still one seasonal position in the budget, to provide service in the parks from Friday–Monday throughout the summer, so as not to incur overtime costs with regular full-time staff.   

The reduction of irrigation will save in water/utility bills for Hickman, Sierra, Seaview and City parks. The grass on the ball fields and some of our smaller neighborhood parks will go dormant for the season. Depending on the weather, the grass could turn brown as early as June, or as late as August.

This reduction in irrigation also will reduce the need to mow as well. We will monitor the grass and the fields throughout the summer to ensure their integrity. This may result in temporary closures of fields and grassy areas at different times during the summer.

The reduction of staff at the Frances Anderson Center will reduce the hours the Center is open to the public. The new hours for the Frances Anderson Center will be Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m, and Saturdays from 9 am-2 p.m.

The reduction in the arts program will be the elimination of student scholarships, the reduction of a summer concert and reduction of the arts assistant position. The Cultural Arts program is currently applying for a grant to help support the concert series.

The reduction of the beach rangers will impact the summer, seasonal positions and would reduce the beach patrols and educational programs for kids during the summer, and limit the hours the ranger station is open.

As budgets get tight, parks, recreation, and cultural arts services are certainly near and dear to the hearts of many citizens. It is also these services that often attract visitors to town, and assist with economic development.

If citizens would like to help restore these cuts, and/or get involved with the future of the parks in Edmonds, there are several options. The first option is to simply make a donation. We accept donations for all of our parks and programs.

The second option is to gather your friends and neighbors and work with us to adopt a park. This program is already set up and is very successful engaging the public in assisting with our parks.

We will also be implementing the adopt a flower basket program again this year, and adding adopt a corner bed program as well. These funds will be used to purchase supplies and hire seasonal staff to help implement and maintain the flower program.

In addition, there has been a citizen task force working with two City Council members, exploring the possibility of setting up a Metropolitan Park District for Edmonds. This is a junior taxing district that helps specifically fund parks. This task force will be meeting again in January.

Those interested in participating in this effort, or in any of the options, can contact Carrie Hite, Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Director, at carrie.hite@edmondswa.gov, or 425-771-0256.  

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