Mid-year budget cuts coming Monday

We’ll soon know the fate of the Ballard and Loyal Heights Community centers.  The mayor’s mid-year budget cuts will be announced on Monday (6/14), including any cuts to the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

Ballard residents turned out in force back in May to fight to keep the centers open.  The cuts being announced for the rest of this year could involve closing centers or programs, scaling back hours, or doing nothing at all.  Even if the centers survive this mid-year round of cuts, there is still concern about even more cuts for 2011. 

The mid-year cuts will be unveiled during the City Council’s budget committee meeting on Monday at 10:30am.  We’ll bring you all the details, or you can watch live on the Seattle Channel (21 on Comcast) or online.

Update on Ballard & Loyal Heights community centers

Concern continues to grow about the future of both the Ballard and Loyal Heights community centers. Today, MyBallard learned the city’s Parks Department submitted its “budget papers” for 2011, which identify issues and potential service cuts. We’re told some facilities are on that list, but a spokesperson for the Parks Department could not provide any specifics to MyBallard until the mayor’s office makes its recommendations. Because of their proximity, one of the two centers in our neighborhood is considered at risk.  As for the rest of 2010, the mayor is set to announce mid-year budget cuts around June 1. 

Earlier this month, Ballard residents turned out in force at a city budget hearing.  They carried signs and spoke to the City Council and mayor, urging them to keep both facilities open.  The Ballard pool is also at risk of closure.   An online petition to keep both community centers open now has over 1100 signatures.

Smoking ban in parks relaxed

We didn’t even get a chance to ask you about the smoking ban in Seattle parks that was supposed to begin April 1 before the new rule was relaxed. The new language in the Code of Conduct: “Smoking, chewing, or other tobacco use is banned within 25 feet of other park patrons and in play areas, beaches, or playgrounds.”

Superintendent Timothy Gallagher announced the ban Wednesday, overruling an advisory board that voted against the ban. But his decision didn’t last long, despite Mayor Mike McGinn’s support, with Gallagher backtracking the following day after a public outcry.

“Based on the input from the public that followed my initial decision,” Gallagher said, “I have decided that a gradual approach to a smoking ban is reasonable.”

But we’re still curious what you think about the ban. Do you think 25 feet is a fair distance or are you opposed to a ban altogether? Or did you like Gallagher’s original idea to ban smoking altogether better?

Park boulevard proposed for stretch of 14th Ave.

East Ballard residents who have been working for years to revitalize 14th Ave. NW presented a new sketch of a proposed park boulevard to members of the Ballard District Council on Wednesday night.

The preliminary plan would be to eliminate the median, move traffic to one side and use up to 40-feet in width for a park. “It’s a real need and an opportunity,” said Peter Locke, the lead architect, explaining that the 100-foot-wide 14th Ave. has lots of underutilized space.

The proposal focuses on a small stretch of 14th Ave. to start — 59th to 61st St. — with the longer-term vision to renovate the entire length of 14th Ave. from Ballard High to the Ship Canal. Organizers said the roadway south of Market would be designed differently to accommodate the industrial traffic in the area.

One of the first questions from neighbors at the meeting asked about the impact on parking. Locke said there are 12 legal parking spots in the median per block, but street parking isn’t always fully utilized. The park boulevard design would allow parallel parking on both sides of the street. An SDOT representative at the meeting said the department is looking forward to working with organizers evaluating the impact of the project.

The East Ballard Community Association is holding a meeting Thursday, February 18th at 6:30 p.m. in the St. Alphonsus School Cafeteria, and you’re invited to come share your ideas and feedback. Organizers plan to submit an application to the city for park levy funding by April 2nd. “We’re going to need a lot of help, a lot of support, a lot of ideas to bring it all together,” Locke said.

Earlier this week: Ballard watching Belltown’s park boulevard project

Neighbors see 9th Ave. park concepts

A few dozen people attended last night’s workshop to catch a glimpse of four concepts for the 39,000 square foot park on 9th Ave. between 70th & 73rd.

From a formal garden (above) to open common grounds (below), the design group presented several ideas. (See larger versions here and here.)

According to Ryan Bogden, one of the neighbors at the meeting, “The most popular concepts were to have a big open green/lawn area near the south end, some sort of kids play area with equipment integrated with earthworks, sitting areas (and) pathways meandering through the park,” he said. “Other popular ideas included extending the park on the west side by taking out the existing parking slots, removing the most of the old structure but maybe keeping some sort of remnants, and a community garden or p-patch.”

The main debates, he says, were the swings and the p-patch idea. People like the swings, but they take up a lot of room. As far as the gardens go, one side feels that a p-patch in a public park doesn’t make sense. Others felt the gardens would provide a good sense of security and community. “Overall the group agreed that they wanted the park to be more of an informal common area for all ages to participate and did not want anything to formal or that required too much maintenance,” Bogden says. The other two concepts can be seen here and here.

The third and final meeting for the formation of this park will be held on January 28th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Whittier Elementary. At this meeting, Site Workshop will present a preferred design which they develop from the feedback they’ve received.

Ballard’s newest park officially opens

Neighbors, volunteers and politicians gathered Saturday morning to officially open Ballard Corners Park on 17th Ave. NW and NW 62nd St.

“I now pronounce Ballard Corners Park open!” exclaimed volunteer David Folweiler as the ribbon was cut. He thanked a long list of volunteers, contributors and officials for making the park a reality.

“Dozens of neighbors told us what they wanted in a park,” Folweiler said. “People said they wanted a play structure, a rain garden, a concrete living room, an open lawn and a corner store. And as I stand before you today, I’m proud to say we gave you all of what you wanted.” Folweiler and Rebecca Carr head up the Friends of Ballard Corners Park volunteer team.

“It’s a rather magical park that is really quite unique,” said Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher. “You made this park happen, not just by your activities and energy, but by voting for the Pro Parks Levy.” Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Councilmember Larry Phillips and Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Director Stella Chao also spoke at the ceremony.

The park has been years in the making. The property was once an empty lot and a home that was “deconstructed” to reuse its materials. Groundswell NW, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, first identified the site as a park and began the development process. Today, they showed a timeline (above) of all the Groundswell projects over the years.

One of the park’s prominent features is the “living room” created by Nathan Arnold — a concrete couch, chair and table that has fooled a few people who thought the art pieces were the real thing. Barker Landscape Architects, Dariotis Construction and WS Contractors all helped with the park’s development.

At today’s ceremony, Veraci Pizza served free slices — a big hit with neighbors.

“It’s great, it’s a wonderful place for the kids. We’re here a lot,” said neighbor Matthew Carr. “It’s a nice spot to have close by, and a lot of open space. There are enough things to jump and climb on to keep the all kids happy.”

“I felt it was important for all of us to create something bigger than ourselves, to create a better future for us and our children,” Folweiler said. “It’s a fantastic relief to have the bulk of the effort done. We just have a few remaining details to take care of. It’s just coasting from here on out.”

Grand opening for Ballard Corners Park tomorrow

Although Ballard Corners Park on 17th Ave between 62nd and 63rd has been open since May, the official grand opening is on Saturday.

Starting at 11 a.m., guest speakers such as Seattle Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher, State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson, State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Director Stella Chao and
King County Councilmember Larry Phillips will all take the podium. Veraci Pizza will be giving away free slices to celebrate the new park and Groundswell NW will be there celebrating 20 years of creating parks and open space in Ballard.

Discuss a new park for Ballard

In 2008 voters approved the Parks and Green Spaces Levy which provides $146 million over six years for neighborhood parks and acquisition of property. Meet with Groundswell Northwest and Seattle Parks and Recreation for a community forum to talk about the possibility of a new neighborhood park in the Ballard urban village. The meeting will be held on Tuesday Oct. 6th from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ballard Community Center (6020 28th Ave NW.)

Mutt mitts back at two local parks

Ballardite Sharon walks her Golden Retriever “Katie” around the neighborhood and uses the “mutt mitts” that the city provides to clean up after her dog. Recently, the bags were removed from Loyal Heights CC and Salmon Bay Park. After emailing the city she learned that the dispensers were removed at some parks as an experimental cost saving measure. She emailed Aaron Bert with Seattle Parks and Recreation, “These spots are along our regular walking routes and it was always nice to know that bags were available. With the increase in use of re-usable bags for shopping and other uses, the flow of throw away bags into my house has really declined! I know find myself grabbing “more than my share” at the dog parks that we visit, just so I can have some for future use in the neighborhood!” Within a few weeks the “mutt mitt” dispensers have been returned to both areas. (Thanks Sharon for emailing us!)