RJ’s Kids nears completion on BARC Project

After five years, RJ’s Kids embarks on phase four of the BARC project.

After five years of work, RJ’s Kids Director Judith Neary plans to begin on the final phase of work on the Burton Adventure Recreation Center (BARC) as of Tuesday, February 22.

The BARC project, which was broken into four phases, will begin on the fourth and final phase which includes the construction of a skating path at one side at the park, and a non-skating walking path at the other end of the park. Once the paths are completed, additional features such as a ping-pong table sponsored by the Vashon Rotary, chess, checkers, and art pieces will be installed throughout the BARC.

Funding for the final phase of the project has been administered through the combination of the 2018 Youth Athletic Facility Small Grant and 2020 Youth Athletic Facility Large Grant, an amount that totaled what was awarded to RJ’s Kids by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. These grants also require the community to match a portion of the grant as well.

Due to delays in permitting and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the two grants were combined and are being administered under a single agreement and required a 25% community grant match instead of the usual 50%. With the grants combined, the grant match requirement is now $144,425, but RJ’s Kids currently needs “approximately $95,000” in cash donations, donated equipment use, materials or labor to assist in the final stage of the BARC project.

Neary anticipates that the construction phase on the paths on the BARC will be completed around June 2022, and said she is grateful that the community has stepped up throughout the entire BARC project process.

“I had a young man come in here to my studio with his mom about a month and a half ago,” said Neary. “She reached out to me and said, ‘You know, my son has been saving his weekly allowance into a jar to contribute to the skatepark, and he’s been doing this for over a year…we thought we should finally give you the money.’”

Neary said she was amazed by the fact that a young community member would give up their allowance to make the BARC happen, as she guessed this particular donor was not “even ten years old.”

“That’s just very telling to me about not only the community, but that is the biggest success story about this project,” said Neary. “It’s that kind of interest, and that kind of contribution that kept me going forward.”

Following the completion of the walking paths around the perimeter of the BARC, Neary and her team also plan to install their “Art for the BARC” in the summer of 2022 and into the fall.

The process for Art for the BARC, explained Neary, is two-fold. Through the project, Neary wants to sponsor island artists to create individual pieces for the park. At the same time, she also wants to invite young adults in the community to work as apprentices with the artists.

So far, she has received several sponsors for the Art for the BARC project.

When thinking about nearing completion of the project, Neary says she is most excited to see Vashon families out using the completed park.

“What’s exciting is we’ll actually have something there and we’ll be able to have all ages, all abilities, all demographics of the island being able to access a park and interact,” she said.

The Vashon Park District is also seeking funds to improve the interior of the indoor skate park, as the district has applied for the Healthy Communities and Parks Fund grant King County Parks and Recreation levy fund.

According to Vashon Park District Executive Director Elaine Ott-Rocheford, the district is “still working on cost estimates but will likely request the full $250,000 possible grant award” — and there are no matching funds required. Awards are to be announced in April.