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Park board lost sight when it focused on fields project | Letter to the Editor
I have been involved with the Vashon Park District for 20 years, as a park steward and volunteer and as editor of the Paradise Ridge Park master plan.
During this time, I’ve watched as the district gradually acquired more parks and we passed levies to give them more tax monies. The commissioners seemed to manage what money they had carefully, trying to support and assist community groups that had ideas for developing and expanding parks or programs.
In the last few years, however, the current board seems to have become one with an agenda. Athletic fields, an important resource for the community, have now started to eat the entire funding for the district. Between the contract to maintain the school fields at the district’s expense and the partially completed fields project north of town — a project apparently designed and built by the district itself — huge sums of money have been tied up. Commissioner David Hackett has proposed what amounts to a gutting of the district’s activities to sustain the concentration on fields.
In a meeting in mid-September, the commissioners first denied any fiscal problems, then declared their accounting system too complicated for the public to grasp, then claimed that their system was so hard to grasp that they greatly overspent before they realized it, then admitted they were in trouble. At the next meeting they claimed that the economy had ambushed them.
Questions from the public were repeatedly described by board Chair Bill Ameling as “venting.” The commissioners now feel that park users could volunteer to cut back and give more to get the district out of its immediate cash crunch — all without providing more than bare bones numbers to show what they have spent and without guaranteeing that they have actually stopped incurring new fields expenses.
This is a dance I call the park board two-step: While claiming to go forward, it only goes sideways.
Meanwhile, the public’s investigation into Fieldsgate will continue.
— Mary O’Brien