Metro Parks 2017-2018 Legislative Agenda
Leveraging voter-approved bonds: Building on success
In 2014 Tacoma voters approved a $198 million capital bond measure to help pay for more than 60 improvements and updates throughout the Metro Parks Tacoma (MPT) district.
Thanks to strong voter support and numerous partnerships, investments are being made in regional parks like Point Defiance as well as the zoo, community centers, and neighborhood parks.
We are leveraging these bond dollars to deliver on our promise to provide quality opportunities to play, learn and grow throughout the Tacoma region.
Partnerships with federal, state, local and non-profit agencies are crucial to delivering cost effective capital improvements and services to our constituents.
Current Projects and Capital Needs:
- Finishing the Eastside Community Center: Metro Parks is working with civic partners to develop a 55,000 square-foot community center that will serve an economically distressed area of Tacoma. We request $2.5 million from the state capital budget to fund the last dollars needed to complete this $29 million project. These capital dollars will complement city, philanthropic, school district, and anticipated federal contributions (through New Market Tax Credits) that are investing in this transformative project.
- Restoring the Titlow Park Lagoon: Restoring this estuary in West Tacoma will assist in salmon recovery for numerous salmon runs in Puget Sound and enhance the park experience. This project is led by the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group in partnership with MPT. The next phase - restoration design at a cost of $200,000 - has ranked well in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP). We request the State Legislature fully fund the ESRP program.
Emerging policy and funding issues:
There are a host of important issues that will impact Metro Parks Tacoma and our constituents in the next biennium:
- Maintaining a high level of service for robust parks and recreation programs will be a challenge in the decades ahead for MPT and many other parks agencies and local governments throughout our state. With restrictions on property taxes combined with the increasing cost of doing business, our operating revenues will not keep pace with operating expenses. We will mitigate this challenge with pay-for-use revenues when appropriate (i.e. private rentals), by implementing LEAN business practices, and simply being smart with taxpayer dollars. In the long term, flexibility on property taxes, local improvement districts, impact fees, and other creative sources for local governments will be crucial for maintaining the level of service our citizens expect.
- MPT and the City of Tacoma are working together on a long-range planning effort to rehabilitate Ruston Way. The project will include in-depth analysis of the infrastructure - particularly the road, sea wall and stormwater systems - as well as the community's vision for use of the trails and open space. At the conclusion of the planning process, we anticipate that state and federal grants will be needed for construction and renovation of this premier waterfront park.
Recreation & Community Services
- Fund the Youth Athletic Facilities (YAF) program at the requested $12 million level. This investment will help youth across the state remain physically active and socially engaged. MPT anticipates submitting multiple grant applications.
- Fully fund the Youth Recreation Facilities grant program for the biennium which includes $1.2 million for the Boys and Girls Club portion of the Eastside community center.
- Fund the Governor’s request for a $120 million investment in the state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) program.
- Support legislative initiatives to expand community access services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in order to increase access to community based programing.
- Support the Healthy and Active Communities within the state budget process, including funding for Safe Routes to Schools and Complete Streets. MPT is in discussions with the City of Tacoma to include Safe Routes to Parks in the development of their Safe Routes to Schools program.
- Grants for operating programs are vital for the parks district. Currently we receive $65,000 from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help fund our Veterans Adaptive recreation program, and $62,500 a year to provide free summer meals for youth in our parks from the USDA. Continuing these federal programs is crucial, and MPT seeks additional opportunities to supplement and expand specific programs through creative operating agreements and state and federal grants.
- Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park have long supported anti-wildlife trafficking initiatives. This work falls squarely within their growing programs that support their mission for environmental and conservation-based community engagement. MPT supports the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s request of $450,000 per year to implement voter-approved anti-trafficking laws.
- Support the Washington State Congressional delegations’ Save our Sound effort, a federal package to assist in the cleanup of the Puget Sound. Ocean conservation and cleanup will also be a key educational message at the new $51 million aquarium that is scheduled to open in 2018 at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
- Support congressional and federal efforts to continue active Red Wolf recovery programs in the wild in their native range, while enhancing robust breeding in zoo-based programs.
Contact: Andrew Austin, Metro Parks Tacoma, (253) 732-9434, AndrewA@Tacomaparks.com