Keeping parks open will require innovative ideas
King County Executive Kurt Triplett has several ideas for saving 39 threatened county parks. This is the time for innovation among public and private organizations.
DOUR economic straits require innovative ideas to keep dozens of threatened King County parks open. Proposals are plentiful. The county must be receptive to public-private partnerships, public-public partnerships, corporate sponsorships, everything.
The goal is to keep most, if not all, of 39 threatened parks open and properly maintained.
Weeks after King County Executive Kurt Triplett's August announcement that parks would be shuttered because of budget cuts, he called the King County Library System and the King County Housing Authority seeking creative ownership arrangements. He contacted numerous suburban cities that could annex parks and manage them.
Park purists must become park pragmatists. The best option is to deed parks to local governments that promise to retain them as open space in perpetuity. Cities have a record managing parks. Cities can assume responsibility as part of annexations, or citizens groups can assume ownership in some cases.
Another Triplett idea with great merit is to deed parks to the library system in exchange for a covenant to retain them as parks, while allowing a library branch to sprout on a small portion of the grounds. The synergy of a library and a park in the same location should be obvious; both spaces would be maintained by the library.
A similar plan to have the housing authority take over some parks offers other benefits. Triplett has gone so far as to suggest partnerships with fire districts.
The county is in deep financial trouble. Several years ago, in another downturn, the county yielded control of a number of parks and swimming pools to local cities and nonprofit groups.
Naming rights and corporate partnerships were negotiated for pools, the velodrome and other parks. Most of this has evolved successfully. The marketing arm of the county should expand these kinds of relationships.
The county, to be clear, should not negotiate bad deals or those that allow parkland to become primarily something else.
Triplett, who is not seeking election, has proved to be an adept innovator. He is making numerous tough budget choices. He is commended for brainstorming and acting on an impressive list of proposals for county parks.
Come one, come all. Bring ideas big and little. Keeping parks open is an integral part of our region's renowned quality of life.