Letter to the editor: Save Civic Park and Edmonds’ inclusive playground

Editor:

As Edmonds citizens, it’s been exciting to watch the planning for the Civic Park project unfold over the years. And as the parents of a child with a disability it’s been even more exciting to be part of the planning for a new inclusive playground that will be part of the Park project. We’ve personally been involved in the fundraising to help with the inclusive playground and know that there is near unanimous support for the new Civic Park from fellow citizens — based on the tens of thousands of dollars in donations received and letters written to state representatives (which all helped us reach our fundraising goal).

The 2020 pandemic and higher-than-expected contractor bids postponed the initial groundbreaking for the project, but Edmonds Parks and Recreation department has wisely revised the RFP to better match the size and scope for the project. Rising construction and related costs have increased the proposed budget — but there are many financially prudent solutions to help bridge the shortfall (including taking advantage of historically low interest rates to use bonds to cover it). The Edmonds City Council should be focused on studying these options and deciding which is the most prudent for its citizens to move forward.

Now is NOT the time to be debating the merits of a renovated Civic Park. And yet, this is exactly what Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas apparently has in mind right now. At the July 6 council meeting, she suggested that she supports withholding funding and potentially cancelling the entire project. Why? She claims she is unsure how funding Civic Park will impact future park development in other parts of the city — particularly in the Highway 99 section. She also claims that Civic Field is a social equity and equality issue, noting that more people of color live in the Highway 99 area and deserve a park. It is not the first time she and Mayor Nelson have raised this question in regards to continuing to support Civic Park.

To be clear, this is not an either/or situation. We can (and should) explore adding new parks to underserved populations. But this can (and should) be done separately — and without putting the future of the Civic Park project in peril. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. And we can honor our commitment to preserving and enhancing this unique open space in our historic downtown core for current and future generations.

Since when is saving invaluable downtown park space for a free, multi-use playfield that serves our entire region not an equitable project? Especially a park that is designed to serve all ages and abilities with an inclusive playground, Boys and Girls Club programs, a walking/stroller path, and pétanque courts? Such a space ensures our treasured downtown core will become even more welcoming and accessible for all to enjoy. We can’t imagine a more inclusive, unifying project than one which promotes the universal power of play in the heart of our community.

To their credit, Councilmembers Luke Distelhorst and Diane Buckshnis agreed during the meeting the question is not a question of “either/or” but “yes and” when it comes to supporting both this park and future parks elsewhere. Councilmembers Vivian Olson and Kristiana Johnson also suggested supporting the base Civic Park project while exploring the elimination of some of the optional alternatives.

Now is the time for Mayor Nelson and the City Council’s recommitment to this legacy project to ensure that Edmonds follows through on the vision of creating its own inclusive Central Park for all residents and future generations to enjoy. We call on you to honor your commitment to our community — and to once again Save Civic Park.

David and Renee Kaufer
Edmonds

  1. I can see why this is not considered an equitable project – there are other parts of the city that have no green space or recreation nearby at all. I’ve often wondered why the Bowl was chosen as the site for this inclusive park but I’m guessing it’s the same reason we default choose the Bowl for everything – that’s where the money is. Before I’m accused of not being sensitive to those with special needs – my son is Autistic. So I definitely understand the need for inclusive parks. Maybe it is an AND situation, but we do need to acknowledge the historical hyperfocus on providing parks and services and benefits to the Bowl and the other more affluent parts of town. I’d love to see plans for an inclusive park serving the south and southeast of Edmonds. If you pull up a map showing parks throughout Edmonds, that area is critically lacking. Another thing to consider is that while a park in the Bowl is available to all – it’s truly not accessible to all because of transportation (or lack thereof). It’s a Cinderella situation – sure you can go – but jump through all these hoops first.
    So while I do hope the Civic Field park can be completed because I’m aware of all the hard work that has gone in thus far, it is important to push for parks throughout the city. I can walk to 3 parks in my neighborhood within 5-10 minutes. I doubt the same can be said for people living in South Edmonds.

  2. This LTE is great for me because of the attention it gives to honoring the ethic of how emerging council members do or do not have the skills to make decisions without unraveling the decisions of prior administrations and city council members. There’s no mystery why park assets are biased geographically … early decision makers obtained assets as opportunity allowed. Available land (parks) in the western slope of this awesome city were THANKFULLY set aside for public purpose as the density of the western slope increased. But now our density has spread out, and newer decisions can be made. Not a big deal.

    I think that when equity is discussed without definition, parameters or historical context. It’s often a distraction or a fake out move.

    I’m with the authors of this LTE. Council integrity demands they move on properly with prior agreements and maintain Edmond’s municipal reputation, and simultaneously find ways to improve the future. Not sure this group is up to that.

  3. It is clear to me that this city council, which is ruled by AFM and an under-qualified mayor, lacks the ability to think objectively. This is clearly an AND decision. The city needs to move forward with Civic Field and look for ways to better serve other parts of the city.

    To stop this effort is reckless and a disservice to the city.

  4. I am confused about how the city can take donations that were collected for a specific purpose, and redirect them to a different project? Is that really legal? It certainly does not feel ethical. How would that impact our ability to fundraise in the future?

    Also, the current playground at civic field is just horrid and borderline dangerous from years of neglect in anticipation of this improvement. We really need to go ahead and get it replaced with the new one ASAP while the city figures out their issues with the larger project pieces!

  5. The plan for the park needs to go forward as planned. The longer activity and construction are delay will result in higher costs. Fix one area already planned and agreed to construct and plan to repair/fix others parks. One step at a time. One step wii not fix everything but it does move toward better facilities for everyone.

  6. The obvious compromise on this is to build the park without all the options and try to shunt some of the funds saved and/or potential to borrow cheap money over to the 99 Corridor project for Parks, open space or whatever people living there need and want. Kudos to V.O., D.B. and L.D. for making the right call on this one. Suspect L.D.s take on this has to do with needing to get re-elected; but credit where credit is due should always be given in my opinion.

  7. “Equity” is a mindless cliche. When people start demanding equity I just roll my eyes. Because it doesn’t mean anything.

  8. Jeffrey Lawrence Herman, I do see your point. If people want to talk about “equity” they should define what they mean. David and Renee Kaufer hit on this in their discussion of equity and inclusiveness. Providing “equity” to underserved areas of the community is more than providing a new “place” nearby. “Equity” is about parks programming and equipment that meet the specific needs of people who might otherwise not engage in park activities. “Equity” is about HOW you communicate information about available activities to specific groups of residents. One example is looking at ways to overcome language barriers.

    The Boys & Girls Club mission statement captures the spirit of “equity”:

    “to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring responsible citizens.” We strive to provide programs and athletics that promote opportunities for friendship, skill development, self discipline, and respect for self, others, staff, and equipment. We accomplish these goals through positive role modeling, carefully planned activities, staff supervision and interaction…and all while having fun. The Edmonds Boys & Girls Club has been proudly serving youth in Edmonds since 1968.”

    The Boys & Girls Club reaches young people from all over the City. They bus children to the spray park in City Park during the summer and they use Civic Park for sports activities like track, basketball, etc. Their after school programs benefit working parents from all over Edmonds.

    To achieve “equity” among the citizens of Edmonds, the City should focus on specific programs like this–programs that meet the needs of underserved residents. Is access a problem? Work with schools to provide a bus for an after school program or a specific event. Does low-income limit participation in park programs? How about a sliding fee scale? Equity is not just about spreading capital projects around the City in an “equal” manner. It is about how these projects are managed to meet the needs of an underserved community.

  9. Pat — you have hit the nail on the head. There are clear distinctions between equity and equality. Unfortunately, at the council meeting the other night some used the word equity when they were talking about equality.

    Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person (or neighborhood) has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

    Here are a couple of examples that show the difference.

    EQUALITY: A city cuts the budget for 25 community centers by reducing operational hours for all centers by the same amount at the same time. EQUITY: The city determines which times and how many hours communities use their community centers and reduces hours for centers that aren’t used as frequently.

    EQUALITY: Each school in a community has a computer lab with the same number of computers and hours of operation during school hours. EQUITY: Labs in schools serving more lower-income students have more computers and printers available as well as longer operating hours as students are less likely to have access to computers or Internet at home.

    So for Edmonds example. EQUALITY Equal number of parks with the exact same equipment / amenities per square mile across the city. EQUITY: The right type of park in the right location serving the needs of the community it serves. So you can have a city park that serves the entire community with different equipment / amenities than a neighborhood park that is located to maximize access by those in the neighborhood and has the equipment and amenities that community wants / needs.

    Councilmembers are misleading the public when they conflate equity with equality.

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