‘Park desert’ remains despite city upgrades

Renton uses bond money to upgrade public parks

While enjoying the recent sunshine, residents may have noticed the replaced Cedar River Trail, and the Tiffany and Teasdale parks’ playgrounds. Maybe folks have walked along Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park and realized there’s a new dock.

These updates are from a list of 43 park maintenance projects, paid for by the $14.5 million council-manic bond approved last fall. With the bond funding authorized early thanks to a high rating, the city is getting a headstart and is already spending $3.4 million of the allocated funds on the projects.

On Monday, May 20, Community Services Administrator Kelly Beamer presented completed and future projects from the maintenance bond.

The council passed $14.5 million to spend on parks maintenance, but the total costs for all 43 projects is estimated at $23.2 million. This leaves a projected $8.7 million unfunded.

Beamer said they are still on track to complete projects on the list with the bond money, by using other funds city authorized in the biennial budget for park maintenance to cover the remaining costs.

“We will stay within our budget amount,” she said.

Upcoming projects

Construction on the completed Coulon projects, which included closing the south deck and boat moorage, started in October. The timber decking and stairs were replaced by a galvanized steel structure and aluminum-grate decking. The new decking allows in natural sunlight, which offers a more fish-friendly environment, according to a city of Renton press release.

A total eight structures were repaired, including wood timbers which were replaced with a water skirt at the wave break, and improvements at the sailing center, trestle bridge and boat launch.

Beamer said next steps for Coulon are full parking lot improvements, upgrading picnic pads to the same light-penetrating material as the new Ivar’s pier, repairing the rosewall bulkhead and swim beach promenade, addressing shoreline erosion and replacing the irrigation system.

The two other parks the city plans to complete soon includes the Highlands Kiwanis Park and the Renton Hill Phillip Arnold Park.

Kiwanis Park has one of the worst parking lots in Renton, Beamer said. There will also be multiple field renovations, playground replacement and new disability access from Union Avenue. Beamer said the new access will be a “huge improvement.”

Phillip Arnold Park will receive improvements at the basketball court, new walkways that follow the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, a picnic plaza and a new playground will be relocated close by, where the west bathroom was recently demolished.

Geographic equity

Beamer said she prioritized the parks list based on parks residents use most while addressing safety issues and ADA compliance. She said they are trying to move the list around a little for “geographic equity” as best they can with the parks available on the list.

Jeff Kelly, a member of the Parks Community Advisory Committee, which created and voted on the parks maintenance priority list, said the maintenance is important and the city needs to start catching up the years of backlogged maintenance. Separately, he still sees geographic inequity in how parks are prioritized.

Kelly said there is a lack of park service in the Benson Hill area from the city, even as revenues go up year after year. Kelly said the city needs to put forward motion on a plan to get a park in an underserved area of Renton.

“There is absolutely no plan to address this lack of city services and this area is left out of every open house,” Kelly stated in an email to council. “Instead we’re asked to start with where we use parks and what we love. Not, what are the gaps.”

Kelly said he loves the diversity of parks available in Renton and does not want to displace maintenance costs, but the city needs to invest in south Renton.

A few open houses are happening in relation to the Parks, Trails and Natural Areas plan, which was last updated in 2011. The first open house was held at the Renton Community Center. The next one will be from 3- 7 p.m. on the opening day of Renton Farmers Market, June 4, at the downtown Piazza Park.

The Community Service department started its process earlier this year, including an interactive survey which is now closed. More information is available at rentonparksplan.com.

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