Friday, July 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

Our View: Parks bond is a sign economy is on the mend

MetroParks of Tacoma is floating a $198 million bond on the April 22 ballot that would improve parks and recreational facilities around the region with specific efforts for upgrades at neighborhoods.

Outside the roster projects that would be paid for by the bond, it also shows that Tacoma has survived the “Great Recession,” and is ready to pay more for quality of life improvements. At least that is what parks boosters are hoping, because the package is more than double the amount approved by voters in 2005 and will cost homeowners about $96 a year in property taxes for the next 10 years. That is not an insignificant amount for homeowners, but it is also an amount that would transform parks around the city.

Most notable of the renovations would come at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, which is set to see about $64 million in improvements to replace the 50-year-old aquarium, as well as renovate the Polar Bear and Rocky Shores exhibit improvements. Parking, event spaces and landscaping will also get improved. Improvements there would boost the appeal of the tourist attraction and its role as an economic engine in the community. MetroParks’ Northwest Trek in Eatonville is also expected to become more of a tourist draw with planned renovations.

But most impactful for most Tacomans will be the list of improvements at neighborhood parks with added trails and amenities at Swan Creek Park, upgrades along the waterfront to add boat lifts, gangways, accessibility and safety features, shoreline signs, habitat restoration, and trail and pier improvements at Point Defiance Marina, Ruston Way parks, Dickman Mill Park, Titlow, Dash Point and Thea Foss Waterway parks. Seymour Botanical Conservatory at Wright Park would also get renovations. Still more improvements would be funded at Wapato, Norpoint, Jefferson, Franklin, and Stewart Heights parks. A new sprayground and infrastructure improvements at Eat Tacoma’s Lincoln Park. Improvements to provide expanded access including Alderwood, Alling, Baltimore, Brown's Point, Charlotte's Blueberry Park, Cloverdale, Fern Hill, Ferry, Jane Clark, Lincoln Heights, Manitou, McKinley Playfield, McCarver, Neighbor's, North Slope Historic, Northeast Tacoma Playfield, Oakland-Madrona, Optimist, Peoples, Puget, Rogers, Sawyer Tot Lot, Sheridan, South, Stanley Playfield, STAR Center and Vassault parks. Bond dollars would also support programs at the Center at Norpoint and Peoples Center/Tacoma Nature Center as well as help the ongoing partnership to build a new community center to provide services to the Eastside, which has few park facilities.

In an ideal world, it would have been nice if MetroParks floated two $150 million bonds to split the vote among neighborhood and regional projects given that the economy is still on the mend and people just might not be in as much of a giving mood as they hoped. But the package is what it is and would certainly make a difference.

The last parks bond was approved in 2005, when a $84.3 million bond measure passed with 62.38 percent of the votes. That money was leveraged with grants and other money to add an additional $38.5 million in improvements. The proposed bond would fund about half of what parks officials have tallied in renovations and improvements, but it is a significant amount to eat away at that list. The bond deserves the community investment with an approval at the ballot box.