COMMENTARY: Park district is completing projects, advancing its mission

  • Wednesday, August 1, 2018 10:41am
  • Opinion
Elaine Ott-Rocheford

Elaine Ott-Rocheford

Amid the hustle and bustle of preparing for Strawberry Festival, I hope islanders did not miss the announcement in the July 18 edition of The Beachcomber about the Vashon Park District’s new blue slide at Ober Park. We actually have two new blue slides at Ober Park. One is tall and curly, and the other is short and tubular. Both slides addressed compliance and safety concerns identified by our staff certified playground safety inspector. But more importantly, both are being greatly enjoyed by our young Ober Park visitors this summer.

(As a side note to Isabella Peani, age 9, who wrote the wonderful letter to the editor in the July 25 Beachcomber titled “Stop Kid-Proofing the Island,” I loved the old slide, too, and you’re right — $12,000 is a lot of money for a new slide. I used to be a kid — I survived, I get it. But unfortunately, the old slide could not be fixed to meet the new standards. And because we have to perform safety inspections, if we are unable to fix what we find to be unsafe, we have to remove or replace it. I’m so sorry!)

These slide replacements represent only two of many examples of how the Vashon Park District is chipping away at deferred maintenance and capital projects as we prioritize and address asset preservation needs — and doing so with notable grant awards in many cases. Recent significant projects include the work done at the Vashon Pool — mechanical, electrical, main drain, boiler upgrade and ADA compliance fixes with a King County Youth Sports Facility Grant to support the new year-round pool “under the dome.” Another significant project was the new septic system installation at the Belle Baldwin House at Fern Cove with the assistance of a 4Culture Preservation Emergency Grant. The award of a Community Service Area Grant has allowed for a new Concerts in the Park Stage this summer, every Thursday evening throughout August — mark your calendars today.

Throughout the remainder of 2018 and into 2019, we will be installing a drainage system at Agren Memorial Park thanks to the award of a King County Youth and Amateur Sports Grant. With upcoming fundraising efforts by the youth sports clubs and the award of a District 8 Get Active and Stay Active Grant, we will be installing a permanent restroom and concession stand at VES Fields. Just this past month, we were awarded another 4Culture Landmarks Capital Grant to address refurbishment needs to the concrete decking at the Point Robinson Lighthouse due to long-term wear and tear.

Nine percent of all island residents responded to the Vashon Park District’s 2016 Community Survey in which we asked for public input in prioritizing deferred maintenance and community desired projects. Our long-term strategic plan is nearly complete and includes a schedule for completing those projects from now through 2022. In the meantime, our skilled and talented maintenance staff has been regrading roads and parking lots; ensuring pedestrian walkways are smooth and safe; installing new fencing and signage; and painting, building and repairing facilities as the needs arise, all the while keeping your parks clean, safe and beautiful.

The Community Survey also identified bringing back VPD-owned recreational programming as another top priority for the district. Hence, the Strategic Plan also identifies that as a top priority. To that end, we were awarded a King County Unincorporated Area Programs Grant to jumpstart new recreational activities at BARC over the course of the next year. Our recently reinstated recreation manager position has been filled, and a Recreation Subcommittee has been formed on the board, so we are poised and ready for more community input through the remainder of 2018 as we finalize our Recreation Programming Plan for 2019 and beyond.

The mission of the Vashon Park District is to provide public access to the district’s parks, facilities and recreational programs by responsibly acquiring and maintaining these assets to appropriate defined standards, so island citizens and visitors will be provided opportunities to improve the quality of their lives. The two new blue slides at Ober Park represent only the beginning of grander visions of a park district that meets the recreational needs of all of its island citizens. I hope you agree that we are meeting our mission with great success.

— Elaine Ott-Rocheford is the executive director of the Vashon Park District.

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