Issaquah voters could decide parks funds in November

April 17, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah voters could decide as early as November on a multimillion dollar package to fund expansions and upgrades to city parks.

The proposed park bond could generate dollars to add amenities to existing parks, create additional parkland and purchase undeveloped land for conservation. The package could infuse funds into the parks system as lean municipal budgets limit the number of projects the city can undertake.

The municipal Parks & Recreation Department is in the initial stage to prepare for such a bond package, although the timeline is not yet firm. The decision to put a bond measure on the ballot is left to the City Council.

The city is considering offers from firms to conduct a public opinion survey to gauge residents’ interest in parks amenities. The survey should reach residents by late spring or early summer.

“We don’t have any preconceived ideas at this point in time for what we want for the bond,” city Parks Planner Margaret Macleod said. “We want to respond to what the residents want and need.”

The earliest a park bond measure could go to the electorate is November. Otherwise, voters could decide in 2013 or later.

“If there’s interest, we would actually like to get it, maybe, on the fall ballot,” Macleod said. “That’s very, very tentative.”

The next park bond is seen as a key step to continue construction on a 15.5-acre downtown parks complex along Issaquah Creek.

City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said the effort to fund city parks is often piecemeal — “this cobbling together that we usually do for funding of our parks,” as she referred to the process Feb. 28 at a Committee-of-the-Whole Council meeting.

The parks department plans to send separate surveys to city residents and residents inside Issaquah School District boundaries. The school district stretches from Preston to Newcastle, and from Sammamish to Renton.

For district residents, parks staffers plan to ask questions about improvements to the aging Julius Boehm Pool or possible renovation. (The council identified the pool as a priority project for 2012.)

The parks department plans to include questions about the pool in questions to city residents, as well as broader questions about parks and recreation facilities, and open space acquisition.

“Some of the questions that we ask our citizens are, ‘Would you be interested in future funding of parks, like this one along Issaquah Creek?’” McGill said. “That’s part of it.”

The city last asked voters to fund parks in a November 2006 ballot measure. Officials used the $6.25 million bond to launch or complete a range of projects.

The most recent park bond measure received 76 percent approval. Such measures require approval from 60 percent of voters.

Officials used dollars from the last bond to help fund artificial turf on Central Park athletic fields, purchase land along Issaquah Creek and preserve salmon habitat, as well as other projects.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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