by Kirby LindsayDavid Roman, Fremont resident and student at the UW College of Forrest Resources, spent 2010 applying to the Seattle Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund to convert property just south of the Fremont Bridge into a wetlands trail park. In October 2010, Fremocentrist.com described the properties along Dexter Avenue near 4th Avenue North, and the ways Roman spent 2009 in tending.
He applied for development funds, since Seattle Parks (and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)) already own the land. Among 94 applications to the Opportunity Fund, Seattle Park’s staff rated the trail park #12. Their criteria included neighborhood gap analysis (the types of parks nearby,) public support (the Fremont Arts Council, the Fremont Chamber of Commerce and several area stakeholders champion this project,) and environmental benefits to the city.
Yet, when the Levy Oversight Committee released its First Round Opportunity Fund recommendations trail park had not been chosen. Trail park received a score of 60 (out of 100) by Parks’ staff, but the Oversight Committee chose to fund enhancements to Lower Kinnear Park, a project that received a score of 31 and the only park funded in the same quadrant of Seattle as the trail park.
Roman now questions the process. He contacted City Councilmembers, and has attended every public meeting for the Opportunity Fund to find answers about the methods the Committee used. The Troll’s Knoll project received a 71 (and ranked #5), and has been recommended for funding, but the Committee also gave additional Levy funds to three projects that each scored below 40. They also allocated $900,000 to equip two Seattle parks with misters (light water sprayers) for hot summer days.
“Many neighborhoods are going to suffer,” he asked, “while others get all the parks?” He questions the tenure of members of the Oversight Committee, as some have served for over a decade. On the advice of Frank Video, aide to Councilmember Nick Licata, he submitted a public disclosure request. “The overall process has to be looked at,” he believes, before the second round of Opportunity Fund applications opens. According to Seattle Parks Planning & Development Deputy Director Michael Shiosaki, the second round may begin in late 2012 or early 2013.
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw chairs the Council Parks Committee. Her aide, Phil Roewe, didn’t recall speaking with Roman, or his concerns, but Roewe did say that Councilmember Bagshaw hadn’t had time yet to meet all the members of the Oversight Committee. It is their office, however, that appoints, or re-appoints, the citizens who serve on this committee.
Roewe did say that they were awaiting the legislation from Parks to fund the recommended projects. The committee, and then the entire council, must review the legislation and draft and approve an ordinance before the funds can be distributed.
The funds ($6,966,000) will be distributed to Seattle Parks. “The money is for planning, design and construction of the projects,” Shiosaki explained, “this money isn’t for operations and maintenance.” Shiosaki insisted that they hope the community activists that applied on behalf of these projects will stay involved. “These ideas came from the community,” Shiosaki explained, “it needs to stay with them.” Also, “we want to get volunteers involved, long-term,” he acknowledged, so neighbors can assist with maintenance.
Where Do We Go Now?
Ultimately, Roman allowed, “we can’t change what’s happened so far, or we jeopardize 12 new parks.” He may have suspicions about the Oversight Committee’s motives, but when it comes to the future of the trail park, he sounds almost relieved.
For Roman has moved forward towards developing the trail park – hopefully to be– with the help of friends and a supportive community.
In the last months, Roman has continued to develop the park with the help of friends and a supportive community. He’s had friends help chop up blackberry bushes (and remove root balls,) and plant willow trees and 200+ flower bulbs donated by the Ballard QFC. He continues to consult with the Parks Department about registering volunteer hours, and receiving verbal permission to develop the land as a park. A park Roman and others hope to name Rachel Carson Park.
Roman also continues to discuss with SDOT about transferring their part of the land to Parks, or contracting Parks to maintain the land. He also hopes to convince them to dig a retaining pond (the feature he’d most needed Opportunity Funds to pay for) to capture spring water on the property; water that streams off the land, across the sidewalk and along Dexter Avenue, undermining the pavement.
“The project doesn’t need a whole lot of money,” Roman admitted. He’d asked for $750,000, but most work can be done grass roots, he said, if SDOT does the heavy lifting for the pond. “It needs volunteers,” he said. He will apply for Neighborhood Matching Funds, a Fremont Chamber Community Grant, and corporate sponsorships, but right now he needs more hands to help remove invasive plant species, and garbage. “As a natural park,” he explained, “it can be done piece meal.”
Roman envisions a future of Fremont-esque work parties, “fun places to come hang out in,” with live music and entertainment. Stay tuned to the Fremont Arts Council, the Fremont Chamber and Fremocentrist.com to hear about dates – or look for a billboard Roman would like to install on the property to keep everyone up-to-date on how they can help, and what to expect next at neighborhood-built Rachel Carson Park!
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.