Fundraisers working hard to tee up money for two park district projects

The Vashon Park District is working to overcome financial hurdles as it moves forward on two of its most significant projects to date: a new fields complex to be located near The Harbor School and an outdoor skate park at the Burton Adventure Recreation Center (BARC).

Last summer the park district, estimating that the fields complex would cost $1.3 million to complete, set a goal to raise $300,000 in private donations. With only about $100,000 raised and much higher construction costs than originally anticipated, the district is now considering how the project could be temporarily scaled back.

David Hackett, a park district commissioner who is heading up the project, said a fields construction committee made up of representatives of various sports teams recently met to tackle the problem. They identified several aspects of the project that could be constructed at a later time, including restrooms, parking and field lighting.

“Our basic plan is a sound one, to make sure the foundation of the project is good and solid,” Hackett said. “In my mind, it makes sense to limit the amenities and save those for the longer term, as long as the fields you’re putting in are hardy and able to withstand the use.”

To build what the park district considers phase one of the project, which includes the fields themselves and will now cost about $1.5 million, it must raise an additional $438,000 in funds or in-kind donations.

Hackett added that the district, which recently bid out the project in pieces, has so far received mostly bids that were 20 percent lower than the district’s more recent cost estimates. He hopes this trend continues, as it would drive down the project’s costs.

In addition, he said, they are still hoping to receive a large donation of materials from Vashon Sand & Gravel. “Then we’ll be able to add in some things we’re scaling back at the moment,” Hackett said.

Allison Shirk, the park district’s grant writer, said the fields committee is still actively fundraising and is planning to hold several events this summer to raise the needed money.

“I’m hoping that over the next few months and into the summer more community members will come together and support the project,” she said.

Shirk said the district continues to sell pavers, one foot square concrete slabs that will tile the Player’s Plaza in the middle of the complex and can be engraved with text or pictures. The pavers will be on display at next week’s First Friday art walk

Should fundraising not cover the costs, park district director Wendy Braicks said the district is prepared to apply for a non-voter approved bond, which could total up to $400,000. The bond, she said, would essentially be a municipal loan that would be paid back with limited interest.

“(The park board) will be considering that as we move forward,” Braicks said.

Progress on the new skate park at BARC has also been delayed due to unexpected costs. Susan McCabe, the district’s program manager who has headed up the project, said that early this year, during the process to permit all four phases of the skate park, the county encountered questions about the site’s drainage. The district must now pay consultants to answer the questions and is looking at added permitting fees.

“Admittedly we just don’t know when we start doing these kinds of things where the permitting costs are going to go,” she said.

The district has raised $110,000 towards the skate park, putting it close to the $120,000 originally needed to build phase one, the largest and most expensive part of the project. However, consultant costs and permitting fees have left it about $38,000 short.

If the district can’t come up with the funds, McCabe said, consulting and permitting fees will simply be taken from the construction costs, and the completed park may be smaller than originally planned.

“Part of me really just wants to get something out here for the kids, so we provide the alternative that research has shown that we need,” she said.

All four phases of the skate park will cost at least $273,000 to complete.

McCabe recently rolled out a new fundraiser — called BARCing for Bucks — in which businesses give a percent of their sales to the skate park.

Shirk, who has also worked to raise funds for BARC, said she feels positive about the project’s future. The district recently received a $5,000 donation from Development of Island Teens for the skate park, and she and McCabe are looking at several promising grants and planning summer concerts and events to raise more.

“I feel great about the skate park,” Shirk said.

Both McCabe and Hackett believe fundraising efforts have been partially thwarted by the down economy.

“Plus there’s so much fundraise going on for very important programs,” McCabe said. “Not only do people have less money, but there’s so much competition for that dollar.”

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