As city faces budget shortfall, popular Discovery Programs cut

A Discovery Program camp at Frances Anderson Center. (File photo courtesy City of Edmonds)

Efforts by the City of Edmonds to fill the city budget shortfall — the sole subject of Mayor Mike Rosen’s first State of the City address — are underway. Among the targets of this across-the-board belt-tightening are the city-run Discovery Programs that provide interpretive and environmental education opportunities for children and adults.

The Discovery Programs are rooted in the original Beach Ranger Program begun in 1983, when the Edmonds parks and recreation department hired rangers to interpret beach ecology to school children and patrol beaches during the summer. Today the Beach Ranger Program is part of the larger Edmonds Discovery Programs, which employs a staff of ranger-naturalists who provide a variety of programs in classrooms, on the beach and in Edmonds city parks.

“While there are fees that parents pay to enroll their children in some of these programs, the cost to operate the programs far exceeds the charge,” explained City Parks Director Angie Feser. “Eliminating this city subsidy is one more part of the city-wide belt tightening. This program was significantly subsidized.”

City of Edmonds ranger-naturalists at the Visitor Station touch tank. (File photo courtesy City of Edmonds)

Feser went on to say that at this time, the program cutbacks apply to the summer programs such as Beach Rangers, the summer camp and operation of the touch tank in the city visitor center by the fishing pier. The Beach Ranger Station at Olympic Beach will close, and the summer beach patrols and environmental education activities conducted by the beach rangers will also be eliminated.

While no official announcement of these cuts has yet been made, parents attempting to sign up their children for the popular summer offerings are finding that the programs will not be offered.

“My kids have been participating in nature camps for the past two years,” said parent Danielle Kohler. “My children love these classes, and comparable programs not run by the city cost hundreds of dollars more. The city offerings are always full, and the summer beach programs are the hardest to get into due to perennial high demand. This year when I attempted to sign my kids up, I found that the camps had been cancelled.”

For those looking for other options, Feser said that “the Summer Craze (Recreation program catalog) has been published and includes a larger lineup of summer camp opportunities than has ever been offered in the past. These camps are run by independent contractors who have contracted with the city for registration and facility availability services.”

In a statement regarding the cuts, City of Edmonds spokesperson Kelsey Foster said that “the Parks and Recreation Department is proud of our long history of offering a wide range of engaging programs to people of all ages and abilities. With the current budget landscape, the city has taken a comprehensive evaluation at our recreation and environmental education programming and has made the difficult decision to cut certain offerings based on a variety of factors, cost savings being a top priority.

“We understand that some in our community will not be pleased with these cuts that we have deemed necessary at this time,” the statement continued. “We appreciate your understanding as the Edmonds community navigates the challenging budget condition we currently are in.”

— By Larry Vogel

  1. Making difficult financial priority decisions is expected and doubtless will cause angst among our wonderful community members.

    Let’s not just say the words “cancel” when it comes to various city-sponsored programs, but rather let us look for “alternate solutions” that might employ our non-profits and volunteers.

    The City needs to start “partnering” with our community leaders and organizations and not just jump to quick decisions. I believe I may have once heard Mayor Rosen say the volunteerism is our “secrete sauce”?

  2. Higher on the priority list to cut this than the continued effort with the Landmark Property? Wow…

  3. It seems sad and strange that the environmental program was cut even though there seem to be plenty of programs still available otherwise. Perhaps we need to have a better idea of what else was cut? Were any sports programs cut, for instance? If it was a popular program, then it only seems fair that other popular programs were cut as well.

  4. If the city doesn’t have these programs to manage, the wages should be reduced of those who oversaw the programs, city needs to review the wages and spending of themselves!! This is part of the reasons we are having ADU and Other housing cramed down our throats, to raise more tax money. The cuts to these opportunities for our children are part of our infrastructure that are like all the other failures , streets, sidewalks, Access over the RR tracks, whats the total wages for all the city employees? If they were cut by 10 percent would it save these jobs and programs for the families and kids that rely on these programs for the growth and education of their children?. Something has to change!

  5. Of course there will be pain involved in the City being fiscally responsible. Thank you for looking at programs that can be removed and providing options for that type of service. I’m sure there are more of the same. Also, need to look at City employment numbers and wages, that expense was greatly expanded during the last administration. Please don’t forget the Landmark99 project…that is a giant money hole, again created during the last administration. Please cancel it. When we are fiscally able the City can rebuild programs and projects, but now is not the time.

  6. Several years ago I caught a nice limit (2 fish) of Silver Salmon out in my boat , took them home and cleaned them and then took the head, guts, eggs and sperm sacks to the public fishing pier where I offered the pier fishermen anything they wanted and then dumped the rest of the stuff into the water at a fish cleaning station. Next thing I know a uniformed Beach Ranger rushes up to me and accuses me of dumping liter into Puget Sound. Not sure this program will be a big loss.

  7. Such a shame to lose the Beach Rangers. They educated elementary school students about marine life, and then took these children on low-tide beach walks to reinforce the concepts of good stewardship (let alone the joy of holding a sea star or big, slimy, drippy moon snail!). They ran summer camps on the waterfront and in Yost Park. They created and maintained a touch tank in the Ranger Station, introducing thousands of people to our local marine critters. They worked with local divers to create temporary touch tanks on Marina Beach during the Moonlight Beach Adventure nights. They patrolled the beaches during the summer, educating folks and enforcing local waterfront regulations. They were the first line of defense when harbor seal pups crawled ashore. They served as an informal lost and found, and helped reunite children who had wandered away from their parents. Hopefully, when the City feels flush again, the Beach Ranger program can be restored. Anything we can do to preserve and protect the Edmonds waterfront is a good investment.

  8. This is really sad but I understand that the budget deficit is serious and hard choices need to be made. Hopefully we can bring the programs back in the future.

  9. Thanks so much for the write up Larry! I am glad the public knows. Hopefully some of this essential program and it’s employees can be saved.

  10. I am sure it was a difficult decision on what programs and Paid? positions had to be cut. I know this program looks fun and informative but at least it is a program that volunteers and even parents can take over and show their elementary school children all about most I saw mentioned here. I guess parents could take turns taking small groups of their kids and their friends around for all of this. Maybe someday if we are really flush with cash it could continue but it will be sometime before we are flush with cash here in Edmonds as there is much to do here. I would like to know what other programs were slashed also. I don’t see how citizens can organize or decide what they think is important to pay for with our tax dollars if we don’t know what those programs are that are being cut. If not already planned to be cut, I am sure more will probably follow so let us know please Edmonds City Admin. Better to organize now for what all really want and need for their grade school age children. With salaried positions it’s imperative to find the best folks for these volunteer opportunities right away. How can citizens find out the cost and salaried paid etc. of these programs?

  11. I’m not seeing anyone petitioning the Edmonds School District to pick up these programs. After all, aren’t they chartered to provide education, not the city?

    1. Jim, the money has been flowing the other direction recently. The school board came to the city council last fall to ask them to fund one of their services- and the council agreed.

  12. I totally agree with Jim on this. Here is a golden opportunity for the School Dist. to provide an extra curricular or even a for graduation credit program for its students and help the city at the same time. Seems like H.S. Juniors and Seniors would be perfect for learning and filling the role of Beach Ranger and similar temporary positions.

    This is typical Edmonds City Government – When the going gets tough the first thing to do is cut services and close down public facilities that actually benefit the citizens while being sure to protect salaried positions and the pet projects of our elected officials.

  13. Great ideas Clinton Wright and Rebecca Yalch. It’s exciting to see Edmonds really looking for solutions that benefit everyone from the kids to the taxpayers and it takes the pressures off of our city budgets which allows us to have all the things eventually that Edmonds has come to expect. I think a lot of students would love to get this training as well as parents and just other private citizens. What a bunch of really intelligent people we have in Edmonds. It is truly a city worth fighting for. I love this Thinking outside of the Box attitude. Grassroots projects are really great and encourage community involvement and it helps get people talking. Love it. I just love a Win Win.

  14. Deb, I walked down to the beach yesterday and the first thing I see is a woman walking her German Shepard dog all around the marine sanctuary. Only dog in the place. That dog would scare me, so I can imagine how it might impact a Blue Heron or an Osprey in it’s safe place. Where’s a Beach Ranger when you need one?

  15. I just saw this one Clinton. I don’t know what a Beach Ranger can do? Can they give citations to offenders? Is this area an area that people are not supposed to have dogs? If so then I would think a nice big fat ticket would be a nice deterrent. I guess people won’t like this, but I don’t think with what we know now about the bacteria and all in dog feces and how bad it is for our marine plants and probably fish water and humans and all that dogs should really be on our beaches. I love dogs and I had a yellow lab for 14 years. I know we have the dog park on the water too. I know people some pick up their dog poop but not all I would imagine. I do think those Blue Heron and Osprey would be afraid of any dog regardless of its size. Sometimes a small dog is more aggressive and not as easy to train as a Shepard of a Lab. So yeah, I see what you are saying. I guess you all who live down there and use and view the beaches frequently should get deputized and give citations and let’s get more beaches pet free. Sorry dog owners it’s just the right thing to do for our wild life and environment.

  16. Deb, there is a prominent sign at the entrance to the Underwater Park Marine Sanctuary – “No Dogs Allowed.” Pretty straight forward. Enforced? I very much doubt it. Sort of like our severe Fireworks Code – All show but no go!

    1. That is a drag, Joe. I am sorry that the Discovery camp had to go. I bet they will fund it next year or who knows maybe someone with major bucks will fund it and then it could be brought back. I don’t know why our city chose that program I just hope some volunteers can figure out a way to entertain the children and also watch our beaches. Thing is Edmonds didn’t used to be so broke. The last administration and it seems like years of too much gilding of the Lily is part of it, I think. We spent a fortune on Civic Park and so much more too. I really believe myself that we are top heavy with some of our departments? But I don’t really know about that. I know we tried to help the schools by voting for the Levys, but the state doesn’t give much to us it seems? I have lived here for 30+ years and I agree with you. We have kids in our neighborhood now and it is a delight to hear them play. They used to ride bicycles here too, but I don’t see that much now. Traffic maybe? Fast cars? Not enough funding for much control of some situations. Good luck. Edmonds is a good town and they do care a lot about Children.

    2. Oh, I see. I remember hearing there were signs somewhere in the Bowl where dogs were not allowed on the Beach. I guess the new signs didn’t do any good I know big surprise huh. I don’t understand why we have laws that aren’t enforced. As you know it didn’t used to be this way in Edmonds. When I moved here it was the safest spot in the county besides Mukilteo. I remember women I worked with from Edmonds telling me that be sure you never have a taillight out be sure you stop at all stop signs, and don’t speed. I didn’t and I found it comforting knowing that a lot was strictly enforced in the town we chose. We wanted to live in Seattle but couldn’t afford it so our realtor suggested Edmonds. We knew nothing about Edmonds except it seemed so nice and quiet haha. We loved it from the beginning and spent a lot of time in the Bowl too. The Beaches, the stores and Parks there. I guess obviously we don’t have enough funding for our police or enough money for private security guards now. We all know what happened in many communities in this state and it needs to change. Will it or will it just destroy itself?? I don’t know. I am voting accordingly in November this year.

  17. Sad surprise when we tried to sign our daughters up for both the ranger camps and Discovery camps this year. As a father of two grade school kids, this was exactly the program that made us fall in love with Edmonds. If we continue to stop investing in our children and the environment like this, less families will find the reasons to move here and Edmonds can remain a retirement enclave. You can always tell which communities have a great future by the presence of children and the support they get. This move, combined with overcrowded and underfunded schools doesn’t bode well for our future. I really don’t understand how one of the richest towns in a country so rich repeatedly feels so poor.

    1. With all due respect whats your resource on Edmonds being one of the “richest towns in a country so rich repeatedly feels so poor?” Forbes 2022 list for top 50 wealthiest zip codes lists Medina Wa as #10 and no other city or town in WA makes the top 50. Im sincerely not trying to be adversary, just curious what your resource is. Yes there is wealth in some areas of Edmonds but the majority of us are working middle class who as homeowners contribute the majority of our property taxes to the Edmonds school district. I know I have for over 25 years. I do understand your frustration but calling out Edmonds as wealthy is dismissive of the majority of Edmonds.

  18. Hi Connie, great question! My characterization was a feeling, but a little digging supports classification of Edmonds as one of the richest cities: 6th in median household income among Washington’s cities with population over 40,000 (out of 27) and 224th in the country (out of 1008) (from the American Community 2010 Survey, I couldn’t find convenient summary of 2020 data); Edmonds recorded 170% of the average national per capita money income (per the 2022 5-year ACS). Sure there are richer cities, towns, and zip codes. But the bigger point is that regardless of local wealth or income, our kids in America deserve more. This is in no way dismissive of working families like us who shouldn’t have to sacrifice just to be able to afford a summer camp: the eliminated programs were affordable for lots of families and brought kids together to experience Edmonds’ rich natural environment; suggesting that we could somehow staff summer camps with volunteers fails to recognize that both parents in most families work full time or more. I believe Edmonds can do better than this!

  19. Jeff Bezos ($151B) Bill Gates ($106B) Steve Ballmer ($83B) MacKenzie Scott ($37.7B) Melinda French Gates ($6.4B) Charles Simonyi ($5.3B) Gabe Newell ($3.9B) Howard Schultz ($3.3B) I think Bezos flew the coop! Gates is the reason Medina is on that list. I don’t know but it was fun researching all of the possible really loaded people. We have some macro millionaires in Edmonds Steves does give a lot, but Connie is correct we don’t even come close to a list for Forbes. I don’t know where Melinda is hanging these days. Now I am going to go see what Scott, Simonyi, Newell are up to. Obviously, Schultz is on caffeine high. Check Balmer out on You Tube ha. One would think if you really loved your state the one that maybe made you rich you would give more than a few million 357 million + spread over orgs in the state and country, you would give more to help with housing, Ferries, Potholes? and all of that if ya had 37.7 billion plus plus! ha. Well, I need a break before Simonyi and Newell. All of our multi-Billionaires could build the rehab long term we need and build housing for refugees and homeless and make it all back in 6 months as I bet, they are heavily invested. Citizens displaced and gutted for taxes! tsk tsk.

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