County could close four parks as cost-cutting measure

August 18, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Klahanie Park and more than three dozen other King County parks could be closed by Jan. 1 as county officials seek to trim $4.6 million amid a $56.4 million budget shortfall.King County Executive Kurt Triplett announced Aug. 17 he would eliminate funding for 39 parks in urban unincorporated areas — areas such as Klahanie that are located in cities’ potential annexation areas.

All told, at least four parks within The Press’ coverage area are on the closure list: Klahanie, May Creek, Maplewood Heights and Maplewood parks. The Press’ coverage area mirrors Issaquah School District boundaries.

Mothballed parks will remain open, but will not be maintained. Crews will fence playground equipment, lock and secure restrooms, post signs and lock gates at the parks in December. The parks will close Jan. 1.

Triplett called on local governments and organizations to take over the affected parks.

“The deficit is too big and the pace of annexations by the cities too slow for King County to continue subsidizing these local parks,” he said in a news release. “We will continue to work with the cities to take over responsibility for these parks that add so much to the quality of life of their communities, but King County cannot afford to continue to operate these parks while cutting criminal justice and public health services.”

King County officials estimate the county spends $21 million annually subsidizing urban-level services in annexation areas. A six-year parks levy approved by county voters two years ago cannot be used for the parks on the closure list.

Issaquah city spokeswoman Autumn Monahan said the potential closures presented an opportunity for community groups and homeowners associations to work with the county to the secure parks. She said city officials would work to facilitate bridge building between county officials and interested parks.

Triplett said county officials are willing to work with others to keep the parks open.

“Taxpayers have paid for these parks, and I am open to any proposal from the cities or others to transfer ownership for free,” he said. “As part of the effort to encourage annexations, the state has given these cities tax options the county does not have.”

Issaquah officials have no plans to close city parks as a cost-saving measure, Monahan said. Issaquah faces a $3.6 million budget deficit and deeper cuts are likely in 2010. City officials will use reserve dollars to close the $3.6 million budget gap. Employee layoffs, furloughs and program cuts could be enacted to prevent another shortfall next year.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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