First, on behalf of the Vashon Park District, its staff and board of commissioners, thank you for saving our park district by approving, overwhelmingly, our maintenance and operations levy on Nov. 5. Without that approval, the district’s parks and facilities would have been closed for at least a year, costing VPD staff their jobs and throwing park programs into turmoil. We are all fortunate that Vashon’s residents value the park district and recognize the importance of all that the district provides.
Over the last four years, the VPD staff and board of commissioners have created a multi-year strategic plan for the park district, encompassing the maintenance projects, expanded programming and recreational services that islanders expect. We drew on a citizen survey, current state analysis and our board-approved mission statement to create a vision for the park district’s future, and then created a plan for getting from where we are now to where we want to be. You will find the strategic plan on our website. We take the election results as a vote of confidence that we are going in the right direction. So our job over the next four years is to conduct ourselves in accordance with that plan.
I want to share with you the highlights of what you can expect from your park district in the next few years.
Among high-priority maintenance and preservation projects in the plan are:
• Ober Park playground improvements (largely grant-funded) and roof replacement/repairs.
• Vashon Community Pool lighting, deck and tile repairs.
• Point Robinson lighthouse stairwell and deck modifications.
• Replacement of two 20-year-old maintenance vehicles.
• Road and parking lot repairs.
• Rental property upgrades and repairs.
In accordance with wishes expressed by islanders in the citizen survey, we will be expanding our programming, including:
• Sailing camp
• Swimming programs
• Skate camp and lessons
• Ski school
• Concerts in the Park
• Other community events, including picnics, outdoor films, Low Tide Festival, Kite Day and more.
• An indoor “Concerts in the Dark” series, which will take place at the Vashon Theater beginning on Dec. 12 (free admission).
• A series of new BARC events, including Skate Jam, with food and music provided (this event will also be free).
We will continue to support recreational opportunities provided by our athletic fields, parks, year-round community pool, BARC skate/BMX/disc golf park, Paradise Ridge equestrian park, Vashon School District fields and facilities and our rental facilities at Point Robinson and Fern Cove.
All of this will be happening while the Vashon Park District remains debt-free, as we maintain a cash reserve of $400,000 year-to-year to manage cash flow and to handle the unforeseen emergencies that always seem to rear their ugly heads despite the best of planning.
Since many of you have been paying attention during the weeks preceding last week’s election, you know that the junior taxing district model that we must live with, according to state law, includes some flaws that threaten the viability of the island’s park district. With the addition of the hospital district into the mix, this taxing model could cause VPD to lose some of the funding that you just granted by voting for our levy. The park district staff and commissioners will be working with the commissioners from all of the junior taxing districts and with the state to:
1. Make sure that these other districts understand the damage that they can do to the parks by overreaching on their funding demands and,
2. help the state legislature understand the flaws in the current model and to encourage them to make changes that result in a workable model for future use.
Islanders voted, years ago, to create the park district so that our parks are islander controlled. And they voted last week to provide VPD with the funding that it needs to provide the parks and programs that you want and deserve. We will do our best to keep the other taxing districts from taking actions that will reduce our funding without your approval.
Again, thanks to our wonderful island citizens for saving our Vashon Park District. We promise that you’ll be happy with what you see.
— Bob McMahon is the chairman of the board of commissioners for the park district.