For kids and adults, a calendar full of outdoor activities is usually a clear sign of summer. But in Covington, residents may have to travel...
For kids and adults, a calendar full of outdoor activities is usually a clear sign of summer. But in Covington, residents may have to travel outside the city for outdoor summer fun.
When residents voted last fall against a levy that would have created a metropolitan park district, the city was forced to cut recreation programs and staff and close some parks.
Although two parks remain open, thanks to an adoption program, the city is searching for money to reopen the rest of its parks and rebuild the Parks and Recreation Department.
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City officials say it’s important that residents have recreational opportunities, but without money, it’s a difficult task.
“Parks contribute to the quality of life in the community,” City Manager Derek Matheson said. “The city council remains committed to parks and recreation. It remains a funding issue at this point.”
After the parks levy failed in November, the city had to cut $50,000 from the parks-and-recreation budget, Matheson said.
Even with the large amount of commercial retail in Covington, there’s not enough revenue to keep the parks open and maintained, he said.
Unlike other cities of similar size, Covington doesn’t have an utility tax, which brings in significant revenue, Matheson said.
The city’s two developed parks, Friendship Park and Crystal View Park, were sponsored this year and remain open to the public. For the rest of the park space, the city is working on ways potential sponsors could adopt parks, Matheson said.
Two parks — Jenkins Creek Park and the 164th Avenue Skate Court — were closed last summer because of vandalism and construction and remain closed because the city has no money for them, Matheson said.
Although much of the city’s park land technically is closed, people continue to use it, said Richard Hart, the city’s community-planning manager.
“It’s really impossible to close a park,” Matheson said.
The Covington Aquatic Center has become the focus of recreational activity in the city. The city took over the pool from the county in 2003.
The facility gets a lot of use, said Pat Patterson, interim recreation manager.
With the aquatic center and parks and recreation opportunities in neighboring cities, city officials say residents aren’t being deprived of recreational outlets.
It could be years before the city has enough money to open and maintain all the parks, Matheson said.
In the meantime, the city will look to park sponsors, volunteers and grant opportunities to continue recreational opportunities in the city.
Despite cuts, the city Parks and Recreation Commission is active and meets regularly.
“We would love to have a funding source so we could develop the parks,” commission Chairman Kollin Higgins said.
Budget woes also took a toll on the parks and recreation staff. Several employees were laid off.
Dave Erickson, former executive director of the Parks and Recreation Department, left to take a similar position in Chelan, and the position remains unfilled.
Matheson said money that would have paid Erickson’s salary is mostly used to maintain city property.
Lauren Vane: 253-234-8604 or firstname.lastname@example.org