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Budget cuts threaten Discovery Park

April 28th, 2010 · 52 Comments

With tough budget decisions looming for the city of Seattle, concern is growing that the Discovery Park Visitor Center could be at risk of closure. 

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The Visitor Center, officially known as the Discovery Park Environmental Learning Center, could be closed and the staff laid off as early as July based on Parks and Recreation scenarios for addressing the budget shortfalls. 

The director of Seattle Parks and Recreation, Tim Gallagher,  announced his resignation this week in part due to his frustration over the budget cuts facing his department.  The department faces $10 million in cuts for 2011.  

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That could mean the termination of programs at Discovery Park, including classes for school groups and the public, Nature Day Camp, and habitat restoration programs.

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Jeff Rahlmann, a Docent volunteer at Discovery Park says: In this time of tough budget decisions, people should know that the Discovery Park ELC is cost-effective.  The paid Naturalists are supplemented by over 50 volunteer docent naturalists who in 2009 donated 1,974 hours. Park naturalists and docents teach programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and public school students as well as the general public and families. They also lead work parties for habitat restoration volunteers. Under their supervision, families and students in 2009 donated 3,536 hours to stewardship and restoration in the park. 

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Rahlmann warns that closing the center will cost money in the long run. He says the damage and deterioration that occur in an unsupervised park will be costly to repair and restore and that staff and volunteers provide a presence that serves safety, maintenance, and educational purposes. 

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There is a public hearing on the 2011 City of Seattle budget set for Tuesday, May 4 at North Seattle Community College with sign in for testimony starting at 5p.m.  The meeting starts at 5:30p.m. in the cafeteria. 

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  • Name

    It's not just Discovery Park. Library users (with the Magnolia Library open only 33 hours a week now) should read the following that I clipped from the spl.org website–

    2010 Mid-Year Reductions
    Due to the persistence of the economic downturn, Mayor Mike McGinn has asked city departments to submit mid-year budget cut proposals.

    Like most other departments, the Library must provide proposed cuts of 3 percent, which is approximately $1.5 million.

    Proposals are due to the city by Thursday, April 29, and are confidential at this stage because they are part of the deliberative process. The city hopes to make final decisions by the end of May.

    Citywide cuts are needed to address a projected $10 million revenue shortfall in 2010. The city also is currently forecasting a $50 million shortfall for 2011.

    Given the projections for next year, Acting City Budget Director Beth Goldberg has asked city departments to look for mid-year cuts that can be continued in 2011 and beyond. Though final decisions have not yet been made for 2011, she advised city departments to initially plan for budget cuts of about 5 percent next year.

    ALL I CAN SAY IS–BOY! ARE WE IN A PICKLE!

    • Guest

      Actually, there are programs that generate revenue happening during the weekday. A tuition based child care program daily at the Visitors Center. Many schools attend hands on environmental learning/classes over the course of the year (those groups pay a fee for the programming). And the Nature Day Camp (also a tuition based ) runs for all day most of the summer.

      To close the Visitor's Center would impact all of those programs that run daily throughout the year. If a partial closure is considered it shouldn't be during the week b/c there will be lost income.

      It'd be best not to close it at all b/c the programs run there are great !

  • MudBaby

    How about cutting the DP Visitor Center hours back to weekends and holidays only until this recession is over? IMO, the main attractions of DP are the trails, the views and the beach, not the built environment.

  • justmylucksucks

    They are being asked to cut budgets by 3 and 5 percent? Oh woe is me…<said while playing the world's smallest violin>

    Our company made cuts of 20% two years ago–if we can survive it so can the city.

  • mazama

    The programs offered through the DP Visitor Center are excellent. As the largest park in the Seattle area, DP is one of the few places in our city where one can really be surrounded by the natural environment. The staff and many volunteers introduce important environmental and conservation concepts to students and keep the park safe and clean for the many visitors.

    I hope people will try to attend the budget meeting on May 4 and voice their support for Discovery Park and its Visitors Center.

  • monkeylover

    Thanks Gregoire – keep up the fantastic work.

    • Henry

      We need to either increase taxes or charge admission to the park. There just is not enough money to go around. It is affecting schools, public safety, health care, elder care. If you want to blame someone, I suggest you look to investment banking firms that got us into this mess…

  • magnoliakid

    Now, maybe the raccoons can get some peace and quiet!

  • BillyBilly

    The city's attacks on Discovery Park continue. First the plan to build a gigantic new housing development on the Army Reserve site, in direct conflict with the Park's Master Plan, and while failing to do environmental review – resulting in the city fighting and losing a lawsuit and appeal (what did they spend on THAT?)

    Now they want to close the visitor center despite massive volunteer support leveraging the modest budget many times over.

    And yet the city thinks nothing of spending over $100 million on its “affordable housing” projects, which actually drive up housing costs for everyone else, managed by a housing department overflowing with incompetence, bureaucracy and waste, led by the most arrogant, citizen-hostile director you'll ever see (having witnessed her dress down people at a few “community feedback sessions”).

  • Name

    The Maintenance Management staff exists in Discovery Park and I am concerned that they are never mentioned in conjunction with the Naturalist Staff . Actually much of work that people claim are performed by the Naturalists and Docents are done in large part by the Maintenance staff as well. They coordinate the Adopt An Area folks and do a vast amount of restoration. This year they are leading monthly restoration work parties. They are working with Seattle University to develop a long term restoration project. Actually it is the a Maintenance Staff that keeps Discovery Park clean and safe. Much of the gargage, grafitti, and encampments that you don't see have been removed by the Maintenance staff. They are trained and educated as well.

  • PhinneyHouse

    Of course the Maintenance staff is terrifically important in maintaining Discovery Park as the safe, ever more natural jewel of the Seattle park system. It would be a shame if they felt shunned in this discussion. They are now in charge of the restoration parties and doing a very good job with their expertise and education. It would be unfortunate, however, if they were left by themselves to do be the only presence in the park. This is a huge park and it will continue take a team of players to maintain and improve it towards its ever more healthy state, Maintenance, Naturalists,Docents, volunteers of all types and participants in so many types of educational programs for all ages.

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