Parks commissioners host meeting to gather public input ahead of levy

Published on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Blaine residents offered numerous suggestions to parks commissioners on how upcoming levy funds, with voter approval, could be spent to improve parks and recreation in Blaine, but all agreed on one point: the importance of the levy needs to be driven home sooner rather than later.

About nine Blaine residents attended last Thursday’s Northwest Park and Recreation District 2 public meeting, which park district commissioners held to gather input on how the district can help improve recreation opportunities in Blaine. The meeting was the first of two commissioners will host to glean ideas to improve parks throughout the district, which has the same borders as the Blaine school district, minus Point Roberts.

While parks commissioners cannot legally promote the levy, the four commissioners in attendance at the meeting were quick to point out what the district’s previous levy has helped pay for in Blaine, such as the Marine Park birding shelters and the Dakota Creek kayak launch. Parks commission president Ted Morris said parks commissioners and district-sponsored programs will come and go, but physical parks and recreation improvements will last decades.

The levy appearing on the 2011 ballot will raise about $350,000 over the next six years and cost 10 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value, or $20 on a $200,000 home, Morris explained. The previous levy, which helped pay for the above-mentioned Blaine projects and the Bay Horizon park gym renovation and playground addition, expired two years ago.

Morris said the district’s top priority is a long-planned walking and biking trail between Blaine and Birch Bay. He said he is close to nailing down agreements with the owners of a property on Drayton Harbor Road east of Lincoln Road. Part of the trail would zigzag through this property in order to avoid a stretch of Drayton Harbor Road that is dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Morris said he sees the parks district as a way to bring the Blaine and Birch Bay communities together. He said the commissioners have tried to keep project expenditures even between the two communities.

Sandie Miller, the chair of the Blaine Park and Cemetery Board, presented a list of projects the board would like the levy money to help support. Miller said the board chose these specific projects because they have been listed on past Blaine park and recreation plans and have received favorable public comment.

The projects included a 10-foot-wide trail from D to H Street to provide safer routes for children going to school and a community park proposed for the north shore of Dakota Creek. Miller also proposed installing play equipment at Lincoln Park that would allow children to more easily enjoy the stretch of older forest there.

“Lincoln Park is near and dear to my heart,” Miller said.

Salishan Neighborhood Association president Janet Pickard said the levy could also help fund the association’s planned improvements to Telescope Beach. The final goal of beach improvements would be to make the area behind the high-water line more accessible and user-friendly by clearing out the existing fill material and replacing it with sand. Native trees could also be planted in the area closer to Marine Drive to give the beach a more secluded, natural feel, Pickard explained.

“That is such a jewel down there,” Miller said, referring to Telescope Beach.

While hopes that the levy will pass were high, the possibility that the levy could fail was also discussed. Morris said the levy is critical to future projects. Parks commissioner Terry Johnston said the district has about $125,000 left in reserves, which would fund current district activities for about one more year if the levy doesn’t pass.

Morris attributed the 2010 levy’s failure to the district’s lack of advertising. The 2007 levy passed with such ease that Morris and the other commissioners thought district voters would see what the 2007 levy had paid for – the Bay Horizon Park gym renovations, for example – and vote to keep funding the district in 2010. The 2010 levy failed by a few hundred votes.

Morris said the district developed an advertising plan for the November 2011 levy and has made an effort to reach out to various community groups in Blaine and Birch Bay to tell them how the district spends its money. Morris said the commissioners have also formed a political action committee, which allows the commissioners to raise money outside of their duties as commissioners.

Parks and recreation levies need 60 percent or more of the vote to pass. Ballots for the 2011 election will be mailed out October 21. The deadline for registering online to vote is October 10.

The next parks district public meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 29, at the Bay Horizon Park gym, 7511 Gemini Street in Birch Bay.