Park bond stretched to preserve open space, upgrade parks
November 17, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
City parks officials used grants to stretch a $6.25 million park bond into almost $9.6 million — money then used to buy land for new parks, preserve open space and improve sports fields.
Issaquah voters approved the bond in November 2006 with a resounding margin: 76 percent. The dollars were split among open space acquisitions and improvements to existing parks. The park bond came almost 20 years after city officials last asked Issaquah voters for money to add recreation and open space.
Proponents pitched the bond to voters as a way to protect water quality in Issaquah waterways, add and enhance sports fields and open new areas to recreation and wildlife. Officials earmarked the biggest piece of the bond — $3.5 million — to buy creekside and hillside land.Officials bought Squak Mountain upland and sensitive land around Issaquah Creek with the latest bond. State and King County agencies kicked in dollars for several projects. City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said the bond generates discussion from landowners with property in which the city wants to buy for parks or open space. Moreover, the bond provides leverage when parks officials asked for grant money.
“You don’t have to go find a pot of money,” McGill said. “It’s sitting there gaining interest.”
Bond dollars, supplemented with grant money, were funneled to big-ticket purchases. Officials used: $2.5 million toward Anderson Farm, $2.4 million toward Corra Park, $1.7 million toward Ingi Johnson Park and Squak Mountain open space — 40 acres for $1.8 million. The bond was used to buy land near Issaquah Creek, a parcel known as the Stieglitz property, for $100,405.
As part of the confluence area where Issaquah Creek and the East Fork meet, the four-acre Anderson parcel is part of a planned downtown park complex. Corra Park is 2.5 acres near Third and Dogwood streets. Ingi Johnson Park consists of about eight acres along Issaquah Creek near the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery dam.
Another project included a public-private partnership. Crews are almost done with artificial turf and lights at Central Park fields in the Issaquah Highlands. Besides county and state grants, the Issaquah Soccer Club donated $100,000 toward the $2.4 million project. Another $1 million came from the park bond, King County kicked in $500,00 and a Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grant provided $500,000. City dollars covered the remainder.
Bond dollars were also used for drainage improvements at Central Park, a project with a $114,312 price tag.
Almost half of the $964,000 price tag for Harvey Manning Park at Talus — named for the late conservationist — was paid for with bond money. The bond also paid for $67,000 worth of playground improvements, part of a $137,000 upgrade to Veterans’ Memorial Park. The project updated play equipment for children ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12.
McGill lauded city Parks Planner Margaret Macleod, who leveraged the bond to secure county and state dollars for Issaquah projects. McGill described Macleod as “a real dynamo” for her efforts to secure $3.3 million in grant money to augment the bond.
When officials began discussions about a park bond, Macleod said the team identified open space and wildlife habitat city officials would like to acquire. Ways to expand and improve the existing parks and recreation system were also discussed.
Macleod said bond money also provides Issaquah with the matching funds most grants require — further increasing the odds for grant dollars.
Macleod said the overwhelming support for the park bond reassures agencies in charge of grant money. The vote shows officials how valuable parks and open space are to area residents, she said. In turn, the support boosts an applicant’s chances for success.
Macleod, whose position is funded by the city, county and state Department of Natural Resources and State Parks and Recreation Commission, said the patchwork arrangement has enabled her to build connections with officials in various agencies. The relationships then prove useful when she applies for grant dollars for the city, because other officials know the quality of the work.
Macleod credited city residents for supporting efforts to preserve open space, as well as elected city leaders for the political will to conserve land and back up such decisions.
The ample open space and emphasis on recreation help attract new residents to Issaquah and the emphasis “provides a quality of life for people living here,” Macleod said.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.