Share |

Free Parking

Island Life

Along with a number of other things, the issue of parking and safety along the Vashon Highway came up at the latest Park District commissioners meeting last night. This was not really the main event that all were in attendance for- that special part of the agenda was reserved for the ceremonial bid opening for the latest iteration of that giant sucking noise that is the VES fields project. As had been predicted earlier in the day by the radio voice of Capt Joe Wubbold, the cost to finally bring this travesty to a close so that King County is satisfied that all permits and agreements are completed to their liking we find to be somewhere around $400,000. The reason for the uncertainty is that two options were offered to get the project done. The first, costing a total of $394,843.08, including tax, would get it all done by this September. The other, at a price tag of a mere $412,247.68, including tax, would allow the work to be spread out into next year.

As I understand it, all of this work has to be done, otherwise the County has the right to close access to VES fields. The reason that the Park District was offered extra time to complete the project, above and beyond the extra time they have already been granted to complete the project, is to allow the possibility of spreading the costs out further over time. Having been a reluctant witness to the painful march toward finishing this project, I have come to realize that at this point the Park District has gotten all the passes that the County is likely to hand out, so the objections that Commissioner Harvey raised to doing all the work required seemed odd at best. The Park District agreed that they were going to do all the permitted work from the start of the project. Mr. Harvey called for lawyers to look into options for what should be completed and legislators to apparently try to reason with the County and their demands. What would seem to be a better use of time and resources at some point would be to look into how the project got off the ground to begin with when the matching funds that were to come from Island resources were known now not to have been in place. Having never seen the documented evidence of either the demand or the need for the VES project at all, it would be nice to see some verification of Commissioner Ameling’s claim that there was a demand in the first place. We hear a lot from Mr. Ameling about the crowds that throng to the fields on any Sunday as being evidence that the Island likes what it sees there, but this seems to be more from the “if they build it” effect, as none of the field users continue to show up at any of these Parks meetings to support the fields, and none were there for the bid opening last night.  
A big part of last night’s big debate was over the need to pave the fabled “north parking lot”. As has been stated before, the County has said that this has to be done, so I was a bit baffled as to why Mr. Harvey brought his arguments to the floor to begin with, since it had been made fairly clear at past meetings that the County would not be flexible on these points. It was also brought up that overflow parking had spread to both sides of the highway on game days, and that safety complaints had been registered by the County. It was stated that on occasion over fifty cars had been counted out on the shoulders of the highway, but it was also mentioned that there were only thirty parking spaces in the proposed north lot. There has been also some discussion as to whether or not actual asphalt needed to be used, as opposed to less expensive gravel. Mr. Ameling mentioned something about the County requiring paving to mitigate clean air issues- presumably to eliminate the dust of hot, dry days. This also begs the question as to whether making more parking spaces for more cars is actually a good or bad thing for the air. I suppose with the preponderance of Prius’s and Teslas on Island roadways these days, the dust might become the bigger issue. I may have missed it/them in my few visits to VES lately, but I don’t recall seeing any bike racks there.

It was curious that while parking was mentioned as a safety issue at VES, no mention was made of concerns over families with small children who might choose to attend one the concerts in the park. On a number of occasions I have ridden my bike through a maze of cars and pedestrians both coming and going to the musical festivities at Ober and found the navigation there to be a bit treacherous. With cars parked, again, on both sides of the highway and coming and going from the library and the park and ride and Vashon Village, the congestion created by this event may be better suited for the wider open spaces of  the vast emerald expanse of VES. One remembers the days when the Islewilde festival occupied space there before it was VES. One also can imagine that the sacred playing turf there now might not stand up too well to the compacting, collective weight of sitting and dancing concert goers, unlike the resilience of the rough and tumble field grass that was there before. And of course there is the watering schedule there now that wasn’t a part of the process in older times. It seems that with the price tag for these fields rapidly approaching three million dollars, we could have gotten way more value than we did. And nobody has said anything yet about the lights that still have not been installed on those bare naked concrete pylons awaiting their brilliant arrival. For more on the VES gift that keeps on taking, stay tuned.