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Vote No on Parks

Island Life

Yes, you read that correctly, and no, I haven’t lost my mind- just my patience.  Admittedly, my patience is being tested in a number of arenas at the moment, so a thinning is perhaps an understatement. As it was, the thin film of tolerance and credibility achieved a certain snapping-ness at last night’s Park District board of commissioners meeting- at least it did for me. This all evolved and revolved around a pair of grants, one apparently cast by the wayside and one, apparently, being sought. Both involved state funds, and both involved around a half of a million dollars. The one being cast aside was a matching grant to help repair the pool, which as I understand it is the champion amongst the park’s athletic facilities in terms of generating revenue to cover basic operating costs. The grant being sought is also a matching grant to repair the shaky Tramp Harbor dock, and which to the best of my knowledge gathers no fees or admission from the bird watchers and squid snaggers that walk its tenuous planks and pilings. In casting their lots in this fashion, parks director Ott has reverted back to the old ways of parks thinking, namely, let’s once again move the Island’s supposed desire for a year round pool to the back burner while we fund a no revenue boondoggle, and yes, I will of course invoke the dreaded VES fields here for effect.

When I asked at last night’s meeting why a half million dollar matching grant was being sought for the Tramp Harbor dock when a half million dollar matching grant for the pool had been cast aside, a pall of confusion filled the room. It seemed like a fair question to me. In recent times, if the state had offered another $500K to parks, it would have been snagged in a nano second. Before a cover is even to be considered, the pool will require substantial repairs and upgrades. This grant could have provided a good start toward affecting these repairs, which are needed for pool safety as well as for prepping the pool area for a possible cover to come. My question was intended to discover why repairs to the dock trump repairs to the pool. In his usual condescending tone when confronted with any issue outside of baseball fields, commissioner Wald made mention that the board had neither considered nor voted on the pool grant. In a response from commissioner Branch, my question was in turn framed as being driven by Island rumors and innuendo and that a possible pool grant was neither on nor off the table. In referring back to a pair of communications among the Friends of Vashon Pool, on 31 March I noted that Senator Nelson was ready to recommend a half million dollar matching grant for the pool, but that director Ott prudently discussed a postponement of this capital grant in light of the Park District’s still fragile financial situation. On April 14 the FOVP received word from Senator Nelson’s assistant that the pool would not receive an allocation for this biennium. The FOVP at all times were aware of the problems that beset the Park District as a direct result of the misrepresentation of the existence of VES field matching funds by past and present commissioners and were prepared to seek out the matches and not fall into the same dire problem, had we been given the chance.

It seems that even when and where  money is not an issue with the pool, there are still problems in perception of the pool in general. The backwash drainage dilemma that was to be fixed and paid for by insurance is not getting dealt with in a timely fashion and still might not be completed by opening weekend at the end of May, and a recent revelation about further inadequacies in the High School and pool septic pairing have potentially thrown a few more monkey wrenches into the mix. There is also the conundrum of an ongoing feud about pool times and places between the Island’s two competitive swim teams that has torn a part of the swimming community asunder. In spite of what by all accounts, including mine, was nothing less than a resounding success in regards to the April fourth open day at the pool, I am left with the overall feeling from recent events, and last night’s board meeting in particular, that all of this could be easily summed up in two words- why bother?

In truth, if the park district were to go away, not much would really change. Captain Joe and the Keepers would keep the light shining down at Point Robinson and the horse clan would certainly find a way to keep riding. The rowers and the kayak center have too much at stake to allow what already is a minimal impact by the parks to disrupt their mighty programs by parks’ absence. As for the fields, a legion of volunteers could potentially keep things trimmed, or they could be let go into meadows for contemplative walks or picnic excursions. The pool would probably be shut down, but as it is the pool could be shut down anyway given both the parks’ and the schools’ relative lack of concern for it. I haven’t forgotten the employees, and we shouldn’t since they are the ones that have been dutifully and skillfully  bringing the parks back from near doom. In truth, before the meeting last night, I mailed in my ballot and it was marked yes for parks. In fact, after the meeting I felt abandoned by the trust that vote had sought to reciprocate. In actuality, I don’t really care how you vote or if you vote, in spite of what I recently recorded for the Voice of Vashon. For now, I am done with the VPD, and so as not to jeopardize their efforts, I am detaching myself from the Friends of Vashon Pool as well- the rest is up to you.