As reported yesterday on the West Seattle Blog, The Delridge skatepark funding is about to get cut out of the budget by the City Council. As usual, this is a huge blow to skaters in West Seattle, and more potentially bad news for a user group that has seen it’s fair share of disappointments.
The city has a significant budget shortfall largely due to a 30% decrease in property taxes, and it’s looking hard for ways to make up for it. In times like these, development and acquisitions are often the first things to get shafted, which in general makes sense. I understand that times are tough, and some difficult decisions need to be made. But let’s be honest… cutting funds for a free activity for people of all ages during a time when folks don’t have a lot of money to spend on entertainment, seems really short-sighted.
What pisses me off even more, is that skatepark advocates have worked hard to successfully direct a bunch of money into the Seattle Parks Department system, only to have Parks do nothing with it.
For instance, Lower Woodland skatepark was funded via heavy lobbying during the Ballard Bowl debacle, and from a grant that this skatepark advocate personally went to Olympia to ask for. When the skatepark’s overall size was reduced by Parks in an effort to placate angry Greenlake neighbors, there was over $100K surplus in the skatepark budget on opening day. Instead of putting in lights, water fountains, or (gasp) paving the path around the park instead of using that pea gravel that gets all over the skate surface, the money just sat unused for so long it has now been earmarked for some other purpose.
Another example is the “skate dot pot”. This fund was given to the Parks Department by the City Council to build skatedots as outlined by the Citywide Skatepark Plan. Despite persistent effort made by the SPAC to develop these skatedots, not a single dollar of this money has been spent on skate dots. The only money that has been used from this fund was a small amount to kick-start the Delridge project, which now looks to be dead in the water. The only skatedot project that seemed like it might get legs is at John and Summit, a manual pad that Parks mistakenly estimated would cost $10K, is now languishing behind a slow moving Parks effort for months and only seems to even have gotten this far because of constant prodding from skaters. Every SPAC meeting in the last year has included some discussion with Parks staff about getting the skatedot process going and nothing has happened.
So really…where is the real inefficiency here? Skaters have been successfully securing funds for Seattle skateparks for a few years now and we’ve built one park. It’s disheartening to work so hard as an advocate, only to have a lack of action on the execution side toss those hard-earned resources to the wind. Perhaps we should start taking a close look and find out who is responsible for sitting on large sums of money that were specifically given to them by the City Council to build skateable terrain in this city, only to have those funds squandered and the re-absorbed into some general fund for mowing lawns. Meanwhile, skatepark projects on the other side of the city can’t get off the ground because of budget cuts?!? If I was this ineffective at my job I’d be fired, and so would you.
On the positive side, the Parks Levy has passed, which has some funding for skateparks, but not enough for the parks listed in the levy. The levy funds are really only seed money to be spread over the next 6 years. The Delridge skatepark process has actually been moving forward nicely with relative Seattle Parks newcomer Kelly Davidson at the helm. But Delridge is not included in the levy, and looks like it may fall out of funding for the next two years. The projects in the Levy will also have to undergo the same process that we’ve already begun at Delridge, with great success and overwhelming community support. In effect, this latest chain of events threatens to set West Seattle skatepark development back another three years, just when we were gaining a genuinely positive momentum that has yet-to-be-seen on a skatepark project in Seattle.
I know we’re living in tough financial times, and that this new development is largely due to factors that lie far outside of the Seattle city government and Parks Department’s ability to make things better. But things have been so screwed up up to this point that there is no headroom in the system in case of emergency. What bugs me is that with one hand we’re throwing skatepark money into the fire, and the other hand is begging for more. I don’t blame anyone for not giving Seattle Parks more money for skateparks when they can’t even spend the bread they’ve been given thus far, especially when there’s a huge budget deficit.
I urge you to write an email to the City Council budget committee today, because time is short. Explain to them that you feel like we’ve really achieved something special in West Seattle with the Delridge skatepark process, and the community can’t afford to lose this opportunity. Tell them that we’re engaged in the process, we’ve gained momentum, and that the Parks Department is actually responding to us on this project. Let’s not throw a wrench into the machine right when it finally seems like it’s working…
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