Park task force finishes meetings

The Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Task Force completed its meeting schedule this week, ending nearly two months of study about how to make the system more sustainable and efficient.

“It was a very strong group with a lot of good ideas,” said Parks and Recreation Director Chip Faver. “They had some interesting strategies. They looked at everything from different perspectives, and their depth of knowledge about the county allowed them to crack the code and take a fresh approach.”

County officials and committee members declined to share the specific recommendations prior to the Oct. 17 work session with the county commissioners. However, topics will include maximizing the use of facilities to correspond with public needs, earning revenue and decreasing vandalism.

Faver said when the recommendations are implemented they will allow the county to “have a park system that we can afford, and afford the system that we want.”

Currently, County Public Information Officer Clarence Moriwaki is assembling all of the data into cogent recommendations that will be presented in bullet-point form.

Until then, the recommendations will be private.

Said KRCC Director Mary McClure, a task force member, “If these recommendations are implemented, they will make a real difference. But until I see them in writing I don’t want to share them, as it would be unfair to the process.”

Former Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent served as the chair of the task force, but missed the last meeting due to an unexpected out-of-town trip.

The remaining nine members included recreation professionals and people with experience in business and government.

The task force met eight times, including two days of touring all of the county’s recreational facilities.

“I was blown away by the assets we have,” said Hansville resident Tom Jelcick, a task force member. “I get the same feeling when I visited Yosemite or Yellowstone. We should be thakful people had the foresight to capture and hold some of these pristine properties for future generations.” Added Bremerton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Silvia Klatman, also a member, “It was quite impressive to see the array of property and services owned by the park system.”

Klatman said it is important to reach adequate staffing levels, as some vacant jobs result in stress on the entire system. This recommendation will be at odds with current county policy, which mandates a hiring freeze.

The task force worked under the assumption that a strong park system strengthens society’s fabric. “This land can only escalate in value,” Jelcick said. “And their contribution to the county’s economic and mental health is essential.”

Said Faver “parks address every issue. There is the environment, public safety, health and wellness.”

Faver said it was ”unthinkable” the commissioners would not adopt some of the recommendations. “The task force will come up with some real tangibles that will resonate with the commissioners,” he said.

“It was a no-holds barred experience,” McClure said. “There were no sacred cows. And we were not here as window dressing.”

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