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Money, changes coming for parks

Residents and elected officials agree that Port Orchard’s parks could use some tender loving care.

At a recent meeting of the Port Orchard City Council, parents offered a self-administered survey of the area’s parks, which didn’t receive a passing grade. Many structures have been in need of repair for some time, and the city has lacked a steady and significant funding source dedicated to parks.

But changes are coming, and money could be following behind it to fund the city’s green areas.

This week the city sent out its first grant application for parks in 20 years. The application comes from the city’s new contractor, Grant Solutions, hired by the city council earlier this year to bring in money for projects such as this.

The $660,000 grant is for major improvements on the Paul Powers Jr. Park at 2035 Sidney Ave. The grant was submitted to the Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation through a wildlife and recration program for local parks.

The Paul Powers Jr. Park now houses some play structures and an open field used for soccer practice. But as Vanni noted to the council, one child referred to it as “the scary park.”

With $660,000 that would all change. The old play structures would be replaced, fencing would be added, lighting would be installed and new park furniture would be placed around the area.

The application was rushed through city offices after the grant was identified. The opportunity comes along every two years, and was due on May 1. The city quickly revamped its park plan and expedited the project to get it in just in time.

Grant Solution’s Kathleen Byrne-Barrantes and the city council toured the parks, and determined the Paul Powers Jr. Park would be the best to improve.

“We wanted something that was going to be our best opportunity and our best chances to acquire a grant,” City Development Director James Weaver said.

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers is excited, not just because the money is going to the park named after her late husband. Powers has been working on parks for a long time, and noted that improvements have been stagnant. As head of the Public Property Committee, which oversees the parks, Powers has wanted the parks plan updated and project identified for some time.

“As a chair of the pub prop committee I had pushed to get that plan updated,” she said. “But we’ve had a lot of things on our plate ... so that was falling through the cracks.”

For years, there was little to no funding for a park.

“We do have a lot of old equipment in the parks,” Powers admitted, noting that with few funding options, “we were lucky if we got one new piece of equipment a year.”

But she’s hopeful for the future of the parks with new interest coming from parents.

“I think that’s kind of exciting. I’m looking forward to working with that group,” she said. “I guess after so many years of plugging along, to me it’s very reqarding to have an opportunity to enhance all of our parks.”

And she said the city council is getting behind park improvements across the city.

Last year at the implementation of a theater ticket tax, now-retired Councilman Robert Geiger proposed that the money go towards public improvements for youth, such as parks.

The council has discussed establishing more consistent funding, and next year money from those ticket sales will be coming along as well.

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