Parks district, strained to its limit, will seek two-year levy

Published on Wed, Oct 9, 2013 by Ian Ferguson

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Northwest Parks and Recreation District 2 (NWPRD2) has a long name and an even longer history, but considering its impact on Blaine and Birch Bay, it has gotten by on a surprisingly short stack of cash.

Ted Morris, one of the five district commissioners, said the district has stretched monies from a two-year levy to pay for six years of activity. Those funds will run dry in November, but commissioners hope voters will pass another levy to keep the local parks district alive. 

“We started out without a pencil,” Morris said, “but through lean management and solid partnerships, we’ve been able to do a lot of great things in the community.”

NWPRD2 was created in 1979, but went on a 20-year hiatus before Morris and Jerry Williams ran for commissioner positions and revived the district in 2006. In 2007, voters passed a two-year property tax levy of 10 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value to support the district, which covers the same geographical area of the Blaine school district excluding Point Roberts. Over its two-year course, the levy raised approximately $750,000. The list of projects carried out with that money is impressive, Morris said.

The district partnered with the city of Blaine to build a kayak launch on Dakota Creek. That same partnership led to a bike path along Portal Way, a birding shelter at Marine Park and fencing for Skallman Park, an off-leash dog park behind the city shed.

The district turned an unused building on the former site of the Blaine Air Force base into an activity center/gymnasium that holds classes, sports practices and other activities almost every day. The renovation that led to the Birch Bay Activity Center cost about $180,000, Morris said.

“That was our largest expenditure,” he said. “The district office is located there as well, and with all the activities it supports we got a lot of bang for our buck.”

The district also partnered with Whatcom County parks to build a playground at Bay Horizon Park, and worked with the Blaine Senior Center to bring in new exercise equipment.

NWPRD2’s goal has been to promote a “happy, healthy, energetic community,” through building projects and activity programs, Morris said. The district supports three part-time employees who run a variety of programs in the area.

Zumba classes at the Birch Bay Activity Center are a major hit, with up to 50 people participating in Brenda Zelwick’s Gelwick's* energetic dance sessions. Marjie Miller has been attending Zumba regularly since August 2012.

“Brenda is so enthusiastic and energetic, and it’s a really good group,” she said. “This isn’t an overly strenuous class like some other Zumbas I’ve been to. It’s a good workout and you can work up a sweat if you put in the effort.”

District staff, volunteers or partners also run pickleball, ballroom dancing and Tai Chi classes in the building.

“A lot of these activities are enjoyed by seniors, but there are activities for all ages,” Morris said. “We run a lot of programs for kids, too.” Along with swimming lessons, the district supports sailing lessons, golf lessons, babysitting lessons (in which participants can earn a certification from the Red Cross) and little league.

Morris said the district has always had to “straighten out bent nails,” to stretch its budget, and he’s proud of the results that have been achieved so far.

“It’s nice to see so many of these amenities that weren’t here before 2006. I think they give back to the community much more than they cost in terms of property value,” he said. “As a taxpayer, I know I’m often frustrated with how our taxes are being used, but this is a case where the money is staying in Blaine and Birch Bay. I think the community is willing to see it continue to run.”

The levy for NWPRD 2 will appear on the November 5 general election ballot of every registered voter living in the park district. 

Levies need a supermajority of 60 percent of the vote or greater to pass. 

Absentee ballots will be mailed out to jvoters on October 15, and must be postmarked by November 5.


*Error corrected October 14, 3 p.m.