Sunday, March 8, 2009

Parks: Their Care & Feeding

Another worrisome article appeared in the papers recently, this one concerning our State parks and their viability.
Here's a partial quote:
People who went to a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting to protest plans to close 13 state parks heard the state may have to close or transfer as many as 40 parks.
State Parks Director Rex Derr told Thursday's meeting in Tumwater that agency has been asked to prepare for a 23 percent cut. The Olympian reports the news stunned people waiting to comment.
Washington has 121 state parks.
The state Parks Commission will make a final decision on closures after the Legislature passes the budget for the 2009-2011 period.

I know our fiscal crisis is dire in the State of Washington, but wonder what long term effects will occur as a result of this proposed action.
Will the State permanently lose these parks, which were acquired and developed for the benefit of citizens?
I do understand pretty clearly the hierarchy of services priorities that responsible governments must sustain.
At the top of the list are matters of public safety, health and welfare.
Then, come the rest, including amenities such as parks.

Similar realities exist for other government entities, like Counties, Cities and other municipalities.
Which brings me to a point that ought to be of interest to folks here in Whatcom County.
Recently, the County decided to cease operating the historic Roeder Home , due to 'lack of funding'.
That decision has caused consternation among many who value maintaining worthwhile public amenities.
But, the lack of funds is something that everyone understands.
To date, the County seems to have done nothing to raise additional funds, as has been their habit for at least a dozen years -about the length of time our current Executive has exerted his particular brand of non-leadership.

Of greater concern is the fact that the County has requested the State Dept of Natural Resources [DNR] reconvey 8400 acres of timberlands in the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Watershed for the purpose of -get this- creating a County park!
As desirable as some may think this idea may be, consider this:
Under DNR, these lands were subject to more stringent management, and also produced some revenues to benefit various schools and other public trusts.
Under Whatcom County's management, this 'Park' would -like the Roeder Home- have no stable funding source!
This could be remedied, at least in part, if the County decided to create a Park District, or some other management entity that could also provide necessary funding.
Good luck on that happening!

Sorry to be so skeptical of what is undoubtedly a popular idea, but realities do tend to conflict with such things at times!
To date, I have heard no definitive, or convincing arguments that give me confidence in the County's ability to manage and maintain such a Park, even one that offers minimum activities and impacts.
Where is the plan?

If the State of Washington finds it necessary to rid itself of one-third of its Parks, how is it that little Whatcom County can decide to create such a huge Park around our municipal water supply, with no visible means of support?
That simply boggles my mind!

Maybe others can figure this one out.
Populism is good, but at some point it needs to pencil out, without the use of fast-talk and crayon art!