King County Executive proposes “mothballing” White Center parks

(photo of White Center Heights Park – which is on the list – added 7 pm)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 12:06 PM: As part of the county’s budget woes, County Executive Kurt Triplett has just proposed “mothballing” – keeping them open but no longer maintained – more than three dozen parks in urban areas of the county, including White Center. The list is on the right sidebar here. Though the parks will technically remain open, the announcement says that playground equipment will be fenced and restrooms locked in December, if no one steps up to take over the parks. We’re pursuing reaction and will add to this story. ADDED 12:53 PM: County Council Chair (and County Executive candidate) Dow Constantine‘s office says he’ll have a statement shortly — you’ll see it here as soon as it’s out — and adds that the Council will have to sign off on this because it involves next year’s budget.

4:01 PM UPDATE: Just received Council Chair Constantine’s statement:

“I am opposed to Executive Triplett’s proposal to cut all funding for King County parks in the urban unincorporated areas.

“Parks are important to the health and quality of life of everyone in the communities in which King County provides basic services—especially to our young people. To eliminate these parks with the stroke of a pen when economic times get tough would be short-sighted.

“We need to look at all other possible cuts and explore innovative budget solutions—including reductions to administrative staff—before we consider the elimination of direct services to King County residents. I have laid out a set of ideas to serve as a starting point for substantive discussions by the King County Council to create a balanced 2010 budget without raising taxes or cutting funding for urban unincorporated parks.

“It should be noted that Executive Triplett’s proposal addresses only parks whose upkeep is financed through the general fund, and would not affect King County’s regional parks and trails, which are funded through the County Parks levy.

“I am committed to keeping our parks open in the urban unincorporated areas of King County and will work with Executive Triplett and the Council on accomplishing this goal.”

ADDED 6:41 PM: We also asked North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Greg Duff for comment, and he replies:

The mothballing comes as no surprise to me. The county has been telling us that they want all of the unincorporated areas to be annexed and that they would begin cutting services to those areas. The people who think they can hold out and not vote to annex to Burien or Seattle better wake up. I see this as just the first step in the county telling us to get on the ball and get the annexation done. I hope the people who have not voted yet see what the county is doing and will vote yes to annex to Burien.

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23 Responses to “King County Executive proposes “mothballing” White Center parks”

  1. Ron Richardson Says:

    I am curious to know the criteria Mr. Triplett used to decide which parks were selected for ‘mothballing.’ Often such cutbacks have generated volunteer groups to step up and take on the task of maintaining facilities, etc. If this happens, when will the County act to reassume it’s responsibilities? Mr. Tripplet, and/or whoever becomes the new King County Executive needs to address this issue before parks are shut down.

  2. Nice, mothball White Center heights park not two years after they put half a million dollars into fixing it up. Starbucks would have been better off just buying everyone in White Center a latte.

  3. Marlene Allbright Says:

    If you look at the map, most of the parks are in the Potential Annexation Areas. I’m sure King County feels that Burien will be able to take over the financial responsibility for the parks in the southern annexation area of North Highline, if the voters agree to go with Burien.

    They may also decide that animal sheltering will be a Burien responsibility.

  4. Someone needs to tell the PI that White Center is not in Burien… at least not at this time. “White Center Pond Natural Area, 102nd Street S.W. and 12th Avenue S.W., Burien WA 98146″

    I can’t believe that this park is on the list when 1.5 million dollars in stimulus $ is being put into it’s construction as I type. I look forward to hearing what Dow has to say before my ballot goes in the mail tomorrow.

  5. Marlene Allbright Says:

    Hi Greg,
    So from your response “The county has been telling us that they want all of the unincorporated areas to be annexed and that they would begin cutting services to those areas. The people who think they can hold out and not vote to annex to Burien or Seattle better wake up. I see this as just the first step in the county telling us to get on the ball” I gather that the inference is that if Burien annexes, they will be fiscally responsible for all of the parks in area X.

    It seems that North Highline taxpayers will now have additional taxes if Burien is now responsible for parks operations in North Highline.

  6. Hi Marlene Whoever annexes area X will be responsible for the parks in that area. When King County tried to sell off Puget Sound Park on 126th and 1st South, The NHUAC mounted an attack to save that park and we succeeded. Mike Martin, Burien City Manager stood with us and said if annexation passes, the park would become property of Burien and they would maintain the park. If annexation passes tomorrow, the parks maintenance would fall on Burien and I am sure they have included it in the “big picture” to take care of the parks.

  7. Marlene, Burien has already planned and budgeted for taking over and maintaining what are now King County (KC) parks in the southern annexation area. There won’t be additional costs to you or any other taxpayer in that area, or your taxes raised specifically for the parks because of what Triplett is proposing.

    If you had lived here when Burien incorporated, they took over the parks which KC had previously operated and didn’t raise taxes to do that. In fact, all of the recent improvements to Seahurst Park (south beach restoration, new restrooms, etc.)as well as purchasing more land adjacent to the park to add more acreage to the park, were all done without Burien raising taxes to do any of this.

  8. Hello Bayou I find it ironic that you would complain that White Center is not Burien. Almost anytime you hear about White Center it is mentioned as being in Seattle. SPD is in Greenbridge giving safety classes and Greenbridge is in the county. The CDA is located in Seattle and they do a ton of work in White Center. I would bet that if you ask the residence of White Center what city they live in, a large majority would say Seattle.

  9. Bayou, the reason the Seattle PI said White Center Pond is in Burien is because that is what is on King County Park’s website
    http://www.kingcounty.gov/recreation/parks/inventory/parkslist.aspx You will also notice that KC is saying that Salmon Creek Park is in the City of Burien and it isn’t. It is in the unincorporated southern annexation area.

  10. Hey Greg, where do you live? I have lived in White Center for 19 years. I find it ironic that you state most people in White Center consider themselves in Seattle. I wouldn’t claim I’m a Seattle resident if they paid me. Either would my neighbors. Seattle government is selfish, greedy, and commits crimes against our environment. Read up on the Myers Way wet lands where their Fire Training Station sits, a senior housing complex, and after they lay low for awhile…a new jail. Seattle completely destroyed that environment. Seattle needs a new mayor that is true to their word and their government needs to quit acting like a bunch of thugs.

    A huge thanks to Dow for stepping up for our environment and our communities. Open spaces matter! Thanks Dow.

  11. Marlene Allbright Says:

    Alcina,
    Can you send me the link that specifically states that Burien will be fiscally responsible for all parks in area X?

  12. Martha Koester Says:

    Don’t know how much more greedy and selfish Seattle government is compared to other governments. One thing I do know is that anything south of the ship canal is 4th or 5th fiddle.

    And anyone wanting to keep the White Center library needs to support annexation to Burien.

  13. Sara, I agree with you that Mayor Greenie in Seattle has to go, along with our Governor and we finally get a new King County Exec. I was not saying I am happy that is seems like White Center belongs to Seattle. I am saying that because the city line is Roxbury, Seattle tends to blur it over to downtown White Center. One of the things I want to go after is every time I see someone referring to White Center or Greebridge as Seattle to make sure that it is corrected. After annexation passes today for area X (I am two houses inside area X) the next step is start working on White Center. How about if we start calling it “Little Burien”?

  14. Greg, it’s certain groups along with Seattle that have been promoting is a such. Perfect example: The cda created a make shift map and posted it on the kisok in White Center. With it’s phony boundaries trying to create that blur so residents think they are a part of the city of Seattle. Sorry, but Little Burien doesn’t ring with me either.

  15. Sara, and yet CDA claims that they are neutral. I would just like to start referring to White Center as Burien and maybe the residence will forget the city north of them.

  16. Greg, it’s just not the cda get a grip and wake up.

  17. Marlene, see item 8 on page 2 of Burien’s handout on annexation
    http://www.burienwa.gov/DocumentView.aspx?DID=939
    Then look at page 5, item 1, which lists all King County Parks in the southern annexation and note that it clearly states they will all be transferred to the City of Burien, which will then operate and maintain them.

  18. Sara, I am wide awake with a grip. I just mentioned the CDA because it is one group that is slipping under the radar and they have the funding to do a lot in White Center and influence people to Seattle. I am very aware of other groups and individuals who are trying to make WC in to Seattle.
    Now, let’s not be nasty, okay.

  19. Jerry Robison Says:

    This is part of the continuing attack on NH that started shortly after the Growth Management Act passed in the 90′s. From the start the push has been for NH (and other unincorporated urban areas) to incorporate or annex. The NHUAC was formed in large part out of fear that surrounding cities would ‘cherry pick’ certain desirable neigborhoods (or even individual blocks or businesses) and to add something to the political voice in NH by providing a unified body with official recognition.
    There are only so many ways that King County can attack the quality of life in NH. Fire, sewer, water and the library are outside its control. Police protection is too hot of a subject to touch. If streets are allowed to deteriorate too much cities will be more reluctant to annex.
    What is left is two things that KC can do that will upset citizens enough to seek annexation to a city. One is to screw with the parks. That can be one two ways. One, now being kept quiet because of the reaction it got, is to close parks completely and change them to another use as was proposed a few months ago. Another is to keep the parks but cut back the features that are of the most value to those living close by, by closing play areas and restrooms. It is doubtful that the stadium in WC would be closed (because it serves a regional group of users) but the parks serving individual neighborhoods make an easy target.
    The other thing KC has been doing is the push to add more ‘affordable’ housing to WC, turning WC into an ‘affordable housing’ ghetto (WC has more than 25% of the housing owned by the King County Housing Authority, but less than 3% of the population in its service area).
    These are things that happen because NH has less than 1% of the voters in King County. Close or sell parks to save money, do it in NH because who needs their few votes. Need more ‘affordable housing’, put it in WC. They don’t have enough votes or money to make a difference, not like the nieghbors close to where the ‘affordable housing’ is really needed for those who work but don’t make six figure (or even medium five figure) incomes.
    Annexing to Seattle (where all of NH would represent just 5% of the voters) is not going to solve that problem. Just look at Seattle’s current budget woes and the push to extend its ‘affordable housing’ reach across Roxbury into WC to see what annexation to Seattle would bring.
    Annexing to Burien (where all NH would represent about half of all voters)is the only solution that makes sense for NH and especially WC.

  20. Greg, I don’t see what’s ironic about it. WC is not Burien and it’s not Seattle. I don’t think I’m out of line to be offended that they want to padlock our parks and don’t even know what zipcode they’re located in. And I AM a resident of WC btw.

  21. Greg, if you think the cda has a huge influnce, your still still sleeping!
    I can’t wait to see what Dow’s proposal will be to save our parks. Seems like Trip “aka” the County is playing another scare tactic card to hurry up the annexations. Once they get the unincorps are all annexed I will asume we no longer will need the KCC, or least see a downsizing of it. Hey there’s a new concept for saving money, cut County Council positions. Cut the County’s yearly billion dollars spent on transit and there’s another.

  22. Marlene, Burien is already helping to care for North Highline parks. Earlier this year, the County announced plans to sell Puget Sound Park to developers. The park is next to Albertson’s on 1st Ave. S. and part of Burien’s proposed annexation area.

    When I heard the County planned to sell the park for development, I contacted Dow Constantine’s office and asked for help to protect the park. I was very unhappy when I learned that my concern as a resident of North Highline wasn’t enough and that an objection to the plan had to come from the City of Burien.

    Although the area is not yet in their city, Burien did step up and object – quite loudly. The next thing I knew, Dow Constantine was also objecting. Shortly after that, the sale was off the table.

    It’s only been a few months, but now Puget Sound Park is again in jeopardy. I’m pleased that Mr. Constantine responded to this new plan so quickly, but I can’t help but worry that any reprieves of our parks will only be temporary.

    Annexation to Burien is the best way to save Puget Sound Park and the others at risk in North Highline. Hopefully, annexation to Burien is approved by the southern portion of North Highline. If so, those voters will save Puget Sound Park and move their neighborhoods toward a more empowered future – something the rest of us can only dream about at this point.

  23. Mothballing our parks is not a solution any of us want. We need to rally together to ensure this happens.

    I cant say enough- the CDA has and continues to remain neutral as to voting Seattle or voting Burien- the point is to Vote and to be educated. As people bring up the CDA name, please contact me about any issue that seems confusing.

    We’re focusing on listing our community priorities that can be advocated for no matter what city we land in. The neighborhood plan does not advocate for one outcome over another. Rather, it conveys a community-driven vision, strategy, and priority actions that apply equally to any annexation scenario. The hope is that the Cities and the County will want to partner and co-invest with the neighborhood to achieve joint goals and ensure that the community’s needs are met.

    Please call 206-694-1082 or email: aileen@wccda.org if that is more comfortable. Thanks,