‘Blueprints’ aim to increase Edmonds’ recreational, cultural offerings

By Paul Archipley | Feb 05, 2014

A focus on more recreational opportunities, open space and a rich cultural environment are among the highlights of two plans that will help guide city planning in the near and long term.

Carrie Hite, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, opened a public hearing Tuesday with an explanation of the months-long process that will culminate with City Council approval of the two plans – the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan (PROS) and the Community Cultural Plan (CCP).

In developing the PROS plan, an intensive community outreach began in July 2013 that included online questionnaires, random phone surveys, workshops and other efforts to enlist comments from residents about what they like about Edmonds today and what improvements they would like to see.

Hite told the council that residents placed a high value on parks, open space and trails. They would like to see more free events, and more kid-friendly activities.

Collaboration with other agencies, such as the Edmonds School District and Snohomish County, was also highly recommended, Hite said.

“We heard loud and clear: Let’s partner more,” she said.

Part of the reason behind a desire for more collaboration is the never-ending challenge of funding. How does the City pay for land acquisition, park improvements, event programming and recreational activities?

Through their outreach, planners discovered that residents were open to the idea of creating an independent taxing agency, such as a Metropolitan Park District, and that would help stabilize funding that the City has sometimes reduced or eliminated in recessionary times.

Hite said 71 percent of respondents either strongly (33 percent) or somewhat (38 percent) supported the creation of a district. The price point? About $10 per month per household.

Creation of the Community Cultural Plan also demonstrated widespread support, in this case for efforts to build on Edmonds’ reputation as a cultural oasis.

Hite noted that the CCP is as much the community’s – if not more so – as the City’s.

“It’s something this community has held near and dear to their hearts,” she said. “It’s not just a City plan. It’s a City and community plan.

“It’s everybody’s plan.”

The plan outlines five goals, including: integrating the arts in the city’s infrastructure, image and brand; including multiple forms of artistic and cultural expression; partnering with others to secure accessibility to the arts; maximizing spaces for arts; and improving communication to increase cultural awareness in the community.

That last point, Hite said, “is a huge one.”

“There’s so much going on,” she said. “It’s always changing. It’s key.”

She said implementing the plan would require leadership beyond City Hall, from the community.

Hite said the Community Culture Advisory Team that helped develop the plan recommended that a group check on progress on an ongoing basis to make sure it’s moving forward.

Dick Van Hollebeke, a member of that advisory team, told the council it could be proud of the level of citizen involvement that helped create both plans.

“We think it sets the tone of how it should go forward,” he said.

Reading from an open letter that the advisory team wrote to the City, Van Hollebeke said, “The results are in – Edmonds is an arts and culture mecca.

“But we need nourishment and caring. This well thought out plan is a treasure map that can lead our city to better utilize the many wonders that already exist in arts and culture.”

The public hearing was continued to Feb. 25. Following that, the council will likely fine-tune both plans, then approve them.

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