Residents have one last say on a plan for Renton’s city-operated parks and recreation facilities over the next 20 years.
The Renton Parks, Recreation and Natural Areas (PRNA) Plan is getting its first update since 2011. The first draft of the plan will be released on Nov. 29 and public comment will be open until Dec. 15 at rentonparksplan.com. Renton commissions are reviewing the plan, and then the city council will vote to approve it in early 2020.
This plan guides projects for the next 20 years, in sync with the Trails and Bicycle Master Plan and Downtown Civic Core and Action plan.
Capital Project Coordinator Erica Schmitz has taken the lead on the updated plan. At the Nov. 4 Committee of the Whole meeting, Schmitz said the plan also helps the city secure grant funding— the last plan earned the city $8.7 million in grants and state funding. The plan has to be completed in early 2020 to meet a grant deadline from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office for the next six years.
The plan’s top priorities
Each city planning area has a goal in the new plan, except for the outside-city-limits Fairwood.
•Benson -Add parks in gap areas.
•Cedar River -Provide more sport fields
•City Center -Connect regional trails together
•East Plateau -Develop May Creek Park
•Highlands -Improve Highlands Park & Neighborhood Center
•Kennydale -Improve existing parks
•Talbot Hill -Create designs and add to undeveloped parkland
•Valley -Improve access to Black River Riparian Forest
•West Hill – A new neighborhood park
Using this scoring system, multiple projects ended up in a tie. This is why 24 projects were in the city’s top 10. The number one project was the NARCO Property, an extension of Liberty and Cedar River parks. In second place was Cedar River Park and tied in fifth place was Liberty Park, which were part of the same tri-park master plan that the city council adopted back in 2006. The draft plan isn’t published yet, so Parks Planning and Natural Resources Director Leslie Betlach told the council about the top 10 projects. Betlach explained that they create this list using a scoring system, which considered what they had heard from the public so far, what was needed and what would accomplish goals from multiple city plans (such as the Trails and Bicycle Master Plan). The scores don’t take financial feasibility or funding into account, which is being calculated.
The NARCO site, across the river from Cedar River Park, is a forest property that the city would need to buy from King County. The site would get a play area, multi-use soccer fields, a BMX park and slightly adjust the Cedar River parks trail. The Cedar River Park could get an amphitheater, salmon-themed playground, and an expansion of Henry Moses Aquatic Center. The city is also looking at where a ball field complex with synthetic turf and lights could go. City staff has said the best opportunity for this kind of complex in the city is within the tri-park master plan. Renton is one of the few nearby cities without this type of complex, Betlach said at the meeting.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) might buy the NARCO property while working on the Renton to Bellevue Interstate 405 (I-405) Widening. In a presentation to Renton City Council in December 2018, parks staff said that the more detailed tri-park design in the PRNA Plan will help discuss the property with WSDOT.
Other top-priority park projects include connecting the May Creek trail to Cougar Mountain Wildland Park by creating park space on the east side of Coal Creek Parkway, adding a play structure, trail connection and basketball court. Tiffany and Cascade parks are proposed to be connected with a nature trail, a project that was also listed in the 2011 plan. Windsor Hills Park in the Highlands would be redesigned to include a more visible entrance on Edmonds Avenue, plus a dog park and dog agility course.
Projects in the top 10:
•Cedar River Park
•May Creek Greenway
•Highlands Park and Neighborhood Center
•May Creek Park
•Sam Chastain Waterfront Trail
•Black River Riparian Forest
•Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park
•Piazza, Gateway and former Big 5 lot
•Ron Regis Park
•Cedar River Natural Area
•North Highlands Park and Neighborhood Center
•Kenyon Dobson Park
•Burnett Linear Park
•Honey Creek Greenway
•Boeing Waterfront Park
•Cedar River Trail Park
•Panther Creek/Edlund property
The whole plan includes 45 projects, spread out over 20 years. The ones in the top 10 will be main priorities. The city estimates the total cost for the top 10 projects at $200.75 million, and all 45 projects at $333.09 million. Over two-thirds of the estimated costs come from neighborhood and community parks.
What Renton has said so far
Some of the concepts in the plan are based on what people have already said in the first three rounds of public feedback. Comments from the open houses held in person and online showed residents’ main concerns are investing in the city’s features, creating new spaces in parkless neighborhoods and making sure there’s a set plan to keep maintenance funded and ongoing.
So far about 1,807 people have provided input or participated in open houses for the new plan, higher than the 2011’s 1,535 participants. They also provided plan materials in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
The community survey from July and August identified gaps in service and how residents perceive parks.
Gaps in service are areas where it is longer than a 10-minute walk to the nearest park. Valley, Talbot Hill, Benson Hill and the East Plateau were the largest areas underserved, with small gaps in other areas as well, such as West Hill.
Survey participants stated they were generally satisfied with parks, but one in five respondents would use parks more if the city made safety and security improvements. Residents that are women, younger, non-white and/or live in southern areas of Renton had the most safety concerns. More city communication was also listed as a focus area based on the participant comments.
Parks staff also tried to get more voices from folks unheard in past feedback and surveys, including people of color, by partnering with members of the Mayor’s Inclusion Task Force. Staff asked members to hold small informal meetings where people could give feedback on how city parks and recreation work for them. Five members held eight meetings, which met the city’s goal of 80-100 participants. Schmitz said they will also be asking those members how they think the partnership went.