Park district launches more programming

Our focus is on community events and the Burton Area Recreation Center’s indoor skate park.

  • Wednesday, January 23, 2019 12:19pm
  • Opinion
Eric Wyatt (File Photo).

Eric Wyatt (File Photo).

Finally, after a seven-year absence, Vashon Park District (VPD) is ready to bring back recreational programming — with a focus on community events, community togetherness and the Burton Area Recreation Center’s (BARC)indoor skate park.

We are exploring the addition of movies in the park, trips abroad (senior/teen passage off-island to cultural events), a community picnic with planned games and activities, an island jamboree featuring island performance artists tucked away along a trail (think Advent calendar stuffed with vignettes). Current plans are to continue our partnership with Low Tide Festival at Point Robinson, manage Vashon Sailing Camp and Vashon Ski School and expand Concerts in the Park. Nothing is set in stone — send us your ideas.

Research for VPD’s recreation plan revealed that a lot of the district’s recreational programming needs are already being met by the private sector, a scenario VPD itself helped create. In 2012, during the economic malaise that hung over the park district, VPD eliminated most recreational programming and the staff that ran it. Luckily, private instructors and groups stepped in and covered our castaways, so not much was lost in the way of yoga and Zumba and spin or whatever makes you move on the island.

In 2016 we ran a community survey to help us figure out what our constituents want from the park district. Among the findings, the survey revealed that 83 percent of respondents said they will use community events programming while a comparatively pedestrian 66 percent said they were likely to use sports and athletics programming.

With most of our previous programming now supplied by the private sector (which we cannot compete with, per policy) our executive director, Elaine Ott-Rocheford, dug into the details and worked with the VPD Board of Commissioners, which adopted the Vashon Park District Strategic Plan for 2018–2024, allocating $100,000 toward recreational programming this fiscal year.

Programming, along with weekend supervision, is coming back to BARC’s indoor skate park. There will be lots of open sessions along with hours dedicated to younger skaters and other groups. Plans are also afoot to build an adjacent pump track for skaters and BMX riders and to offer camps and lessons.

At our Jan. 3 meeting to discuss proposed changes at the indoor park, our young constituents were very vocal about not wanting fees or supervision. And we heard them. Heard the teen angst about BARC being their space and not wanting to pay.

But we have to uphold our obligations to all constituents of the park — from dog walkers to volleyball players and skaters of all ages — not just the loudest segments.

Because of this community feedback, we are not currently planning on charging fees for open sessions. Plans are to staff the building on weekend nights, which will hopefully cut down on inappropriate behavior. If things run smoothly, we will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The park district relinquished staffed oversight of BARC in 2012, following the last recession. The indoor facility was slated to close, but a last minute offer by volunteers helped keep the indoor park open, though not directly supervised.

Unsurprisingly, a building without direct oversight invites mischief, especially at night: drug paraphernalia, alcohol and vandalism were all in evidence after VPD stopped staffing the facility. Even the security cameras installed by the BARC stewards were stolen. We are not pointing fingers (who’s to say it’s not miscreants coming over on the water train?), and finding villains is not our goal. It’s really well known and people come from all over to skate.

With this renewed interest in recreational programming and concerns about the chronic problems at the indoor park, our director secured a $36,000 grant from King County to bring programming back to BARC, with our main goals being to keep kids safe and get more of them skating.

BARC, which features an outdoor bowl built by Grindline, has one of only three indoor skate parks in the region: The other two are Bellevue Park’s indoor skate park and the privately run All Together Skate Park in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Both Bellevue and Altogether have membership systems and charge fees to skate.

There is another public comment session at 7 p.m. tonight, Jan. 24, at Ober Park to discuss these changes, Skatelites’s generous donation to resurface the ramps and Judith Neary’s brilliant grant to build a pump track. We hope you’ll be there. Bring your ideas. Join the BARC stewards. Be involved.

— Eric Wyatt is the recreation manager of the Vashon Park District.

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