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