Parks board seat attracting plenty of interest

It’s not easy trying to run a taxing district that doesn’t receive any taxes, but five South Kitsap residents want to try.

Only one of South Kitsap Parks and Recreation’s Board of Commissioners’ positions — Position 4 — is formally contested this year, but through an elections fluke, seven citizens signed up for the seat. After two mid-race dropouts, the five who remain are angling to get their views on parks support known in hopes of snagging a spot on the parks board.

For obvious reasons, funding is the hot-button issue. SK parks district receives no steady funding — every dime it gets comes from donors and every employee is a volunteer. For years, the parks commissioners have been acting as self-appointed part-time staff for the district’s two parks — South Kitsap Community Park just outside the Port Orchard city limits and Olalla Triangle Park.

Depending on which candidate you ask, the current board is either on the right track or stuck in a nose dive.

Candidates Melissa Lund, David Greenberg and Charisse Dahlke are big believers in the powers of grassroots efforts. Lund, who has volunteered with the parks board for 13 years, said the key to the parks’ success is increased visibility. She proposes making South Kitsap Community Park the site of major festivals four times a year — even in the winter — to keep the facility at the top of locals’ minds.

The idea, Lund said, is to make the park a bigger part of the community without spoiling its wilderness characteristics.

“A lot of people don’t understand that community parks are not tax-funded,” she said. “We really need to get out there promoting ourselves so they remember us.”

Greenberg’s motivation in running for the parks board is to make the SK park a friendlier place to bring kids — especially his kids — to. He wants to focus on fundraising efforts, possibly securing corporate sponsorships or running a firewood program with some of the park’s deadfall, in order to bring a steady stream of money into the district.

Greenberg said creating a structural budget should the park’s highest priority so it actually has the money to properly maintain its facilities and keep them safe.

“It’s not just our community that goes there — there’s other people (from outside South Kitsap),” he said. “You have to think of it as a whole-community park.”

Dahlke believes the key to park success lies in recruiting and retaining volunteers. A former shipyard worker, she wants to harness the enthusiasm of Navy workers and personnel and perhaps even seek grant money to help keep the parks up and running. Dahlke said it’s important to keep amenities like the baseball fields well-maintained or else residents stop using them and stop caring about the park as a whole.

“It’s very dependent on people caring,” she said. “If people start caring, they’ll support it.”

Candidates Warren Collver and Nick Kosin, on the other hand, believe the parks board needs to change its philosophies in order to survive. Both think steady funding can only come through partnerships with either commercial businesses or more wealthy districts.

Collver is in favor of the parks district merging with another taxing district such as the Port of Bremerton or Annapolis Water District. He said although in the past people have been leery of such mergers, he believes it is the best way to ensure the parks get the money they need without additionally burdening South Kitsap residents.

Collver said too many of the current parks board members are used to dealing with government budgets and haven’t adjusted their thinking to the parks district’s situation.

“They’re trying to do the best they can, but we need something that works and what we have doesn’t work,” he said.

Kosin feels the future of South Kitsap Community Park is in more advanced recreational facilities such as roller skating rinks or miniature golf courses. Even a video game arcade or an ice skating rink would be a benefit, he said, because the revenue from the businesses could be put back into maintaining and improving the park. The extra money, Kosin said, could even be put towards combating the ever-present problem of graffiti and instituting some on-site security measures.

“They’re hurting for funding, so we need to do something or people are going to lose their park,” he said.

Although no other candidates filed to challenge incumbents in the other three parks positions up for re-election, Berry Lake resident Mary Colborn has launched a write-in campaign in an effort to unseat current parks commissioner Dave Kimble, who holds Position 1 on the board.

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