Park and Rec District puts 15-cent levy on February 2016 ballot

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The Orcas Island Park and Rec District is asking voters to approve 15-cent property tax levy to support its current programing and finish improvements to Buck Park.

Ballots will be mailed on Jan. 19 and election day is Feb. 9. The new levy is 15 cents per $1000 of assessed property value and replaces the old levy of 9 cents. If approved, it will start in 2017 and go for six years. Sixty percent approval is required to pass the measure.

“Buck Park land was a gift to Orcas Island from the Buck family. State money developed the park. Caring for it properly is our legacy to Orcas Island and future generations,” wrote Rec Commissioner Martha Farish in the “pro” statement published in the voters’ pamphlet.

The park and rec district, which has been in operation for nearly four years, offers year-round activities for youth and adults in sports, art, dance and science. Under the leadership of Director Marcia West, the district serves 1600 participants annually. This past fall, OIPRD logged more than 1,000 hours of volunteer time from community members. A proposed six-year budget and refurbishment plans are available at http://orcasparkandrec.org/.

Rec District history

Orcas Island Park and Recreation District is governed by a board of five elected commissioners: Farish, Vicki Vandermay, Bob Eagan, Justin Paulsen and Deb Jones. In February 2011, a levy of 9 cents was approved to fund the district (the original levy of 10 cents was voted down in November 2010).

OIPRD began receiving money in 2012. Due to the economic downturn, the distribution was approximately 1/3 less than expected that year. Distribution has remained at that level, or less, to date.

Orcas Park and Rec’s goals for its first four years of operation were to build a strong recreational program for all ages and improve the facilities at Buck Park. In addition to developing new offerings, it helped absorb a number of small programs like youth baseball, football and wrestling and boys choir and taken over management of events like the paper airplane contest. It also has a facility use agreement with the school for after-hours activities and drop-in sports six nights a week: adult basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and pickle-ball.

“We went from no programs to nearly 100 and from no real estate to taking over ownership of Buck Park,” West said. “We had some hiccups starting out and there has been a learning curve. But we’ve had great responses from the kids who participate. They are really enthusiastic and enjoy getting a chance to play.”

After several years of negotiations, the Orcas Island School Board voted to transfer Buck Park to the rec district in July 2014. Prior to that OIPRD was leasing the grounds. Since the transfer, the parks district has resurfaced the tennis courts, upgraded fields, fixed the irrigation systems and made repairs to the skate park.

Commissioner Bob Eagan is proud of their renegotiation with Eastsound Water Users Association. Previously, the school was paying by the gallon for well water. The park and rec commissioners worked out a new contract of $4,000 per year, which is then split with the school. The annual savings is about $10,000 per year.

West says the repairs done at the park have been mainly just to “keep things going,” so if the new levy is approved, the money will go towards rebuilding the dugouts, putting in proper drainage, making vacant fields functional, installing a sand and grass volleyball court, setting up a new kids’ play structure and adding another multi-purpose court for games like tennis and pickle-ball. Local construction companies will be used to complete the work.

“We hope with this levy that we can do some of the bigger, much-needed repair at the park,” West said.

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