Duvall is a unique “island” community surrounded by rural unincorporated areas. Many of our residents were drawn to the area by the natural surroundings and beautiful open spaces. It is also a community of many children and young adults. According to the US Census, 34% of our population is under 18 years of age. That is an astounding number. In comparison, Seattle is at 15% and Redmond is 23% under 18.
Until recently, most homes in Duvall were built on larger lots with yards for these children to play in. I’m sure many of you have noticed that this is not the case for the newer developments. The least dense housing zone is typically built at the minimum lot size of 6,000 square feet. Many of the new developments are in even higher density zones with lot sizes down to only 2,250 square feet for single family, or ZERO square feet for multi-family developments. The City allows 85% impervious surfaces in these higher density zones. Much of the development in the pipeline will be attached housing and multi-family units. The bottom line is that there is no room for children to play or adults to enjoy nature from their home.
Our families are asking for a splash/spray pad (a safe location for little ones to cool off in the summer) and nature inspired play structures. Older kids want play equipment that is more challenging and age appropriate. Our teens also need more recreation options as an alternative to staring at screens. The sport leagues are struggling with a shortage of field space for our growing population.
It’s also not just children who want to get outside and enjoy nature and recreation. Our adult and senior populations also want to be outside and are asking for a dog park, walking trails, tennis courts, accessible community gathering areas, etc.
It has been almost 10 years since our City created the 2008 Parks, Trails and Open Spaces Plan (PTOS Plan). Here is a link to that document if you would like to take a look:
The 2008 PTOS Plan is a great plan and included significant community input and expense to create. Unfortunately, a plan isn’t worth much when it is not implemented or funded. That is the reality of our current situation. Developer Park Impact Fees (used to fund additional parks needed due to housing growth) were never adjusted by our City Council to fund this plan, likely to entice more development by artificially low impact fees. Our leadership finally decided to update to the Park Impact Fee last month, just before election season. Since the PTOS Plan was adopted in 2008, our population has risen by over 25% yet we haven’t added any significant park space. The excuse is that we don’t have any money. So obviously, growth is not paying for growth.
Here is what I propose:
- Resurrect the Parks Advisory Committee: Our current City Code has a provision for a citizen led Parks Advisory Committee (PAC) described as follows:
- “There is established the city parks advisory committee (PAC) for the purpose of providing recommendations to the city council and planning commission for the expenditure of park funds, and the development and improvement of lands for parks, trails, picnic grounds, playgrounds, recreation centers, beaches, and other recreational facilities and programs for the use and benefit of the public.” Municipal Code: Parks Advisory Committee
- This citizen committee has been abandoned by the current leadership and needs to be restarted immediately.
- Update the 2008 Park Trails and Open Spaces (PTOS) Plan. No new annexations or developments should be considered until this plan is updated.
- Identify SPECIFIC park expansion opportunities and explore ideas to fund acquisition of land. There is VERY little space remaining within City limits to expand our Park system. It is critical that we have a plan for acquisition of land before our entire City is developed as housing. The 2008 PTOS Plan clearly lists several areas for a significant Park expansion (see pages 69-70). Specifically:
- 10 acre Community Park (medium level of development…i.e. not just trails in the wood) in the North UGA . Note that the current NUGA annexation plan shows no developed park expansion.
- 8 acre Community Park expansion to the Big Rock Ball Parks (high level of development). Note that the current Big Rock annexation plan shows a very small sliver of park expansion (primarily for a parking lot and stormwater storage) and dense residential housing on either side of the park that will forever eliminate the possibility of expansion.
- TWO separate 3 acre Neighborhood Parks south of 145th Street, west of 275th . Note that the Walden at Big Rock development will add a 1 acre and 2 acre park to this area. There is no other land identified for the remaining 3 acre park.
- Inventory the existing sport fields (local, county and school district facilities) and ask local sport leagues to estimate the current and anticipated need for fields based on current and projected population. Shortage of field space has a been a problem since my oldest began organized sports over 10 years ago and we need an accurate assessment in order to plan for the future.
- Evaluate the Cost vs. Benefit of establishing a Parks Department and/or a Parks Benefit District. Although both of these ideas deserve contemplation, I feel it is critical to understand that just adding bureaucracy to a problem will likely not solve the problem. It is possible that the expense of creating these well intentioned departments/taxing districts may outweigh the benefit. If it is determined that either of these ideas will be beneficial and can be cost justified, then our community should be included in the implementation process.
- Develop Partnerships with King County. City of Duvall parks serve a large population of residents from unincorporated King County. Currently, the only park that King County provides for our area is the neglected Duvall Park on 203 between Safeway and the round-about. This park is in terrible shape and nearly unusable with little ability to improve (due to sensitive areas and lack of irrigation). It is possible Duvall Park would be better utilized as a dog park and we should ask King County to partner with City of Duvall to build a more usable park. A partnership with King County will be key to supplement our funding shortfall and to create the large Community Park that our City residents and neighbors in unincorporated King County need.
- Develop Partnerships with YMCA or other outside groups to provide recreational programs. Residents would like to see recreational opportunities and possibly summer day programs (in addition to organized sport leagues) that many other Cities provide either through a Parks Department or through partnerships with outside groups such as the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club. It is unlikely our City could afford the overhead of such a program and will likely require a partnership approach.
- Consider the economic benefit of enhancing our parks. My children are 14, 12 and 6 – we spend A LOT of time visiting parks outside of Duvall. What I know based on my own habits and what I am hearing from fellow parents is that we are driving OUT of Duvall to find parks that meet our needs. When we leave Duvall, we take our tax money with us and go out to lunch and shop near those parks, giving our sales tax revenues away to other cities. Take a look at Grasslawn or Perrigo Park. They are utilized all days of week, all day long by all ages and recreational interests and draw visitors from a very wide area. Those visitors are likely spending money locally when they visit these parks. These more diverse parks are also a wise use of resources since they are so highly utilized (excellent return on investment).
- The new developments that are already in the works will bring in some additional income to the city besides the Park Impact Fees: Sales tax related to construction, permit fees, REET (Real Estate Excise Tax from new home sales) etc. A large portion of that income should be reserved for park expansion. Any additional income directly related to construction of new homes should be RESERVED for mitigating the impact of those new homes and NOT supplementing the general budget.
- Compile the following information to help guide our future decision making:
- General Park Expenditures per year since 2008 (broken down by project)
- Park Impact Fees Collected per year since 2008
- Park Impact Fees Expenditures per year since 2008 (broken down by project). Note these fees have restrictions to only be used for park expansion or improvements that are a direct result of housing development.
- Anticipated Park Impact Fee Payments (note that in many cases, the projects in the “pipeline” will not be paying the updated Park Impact Fee by paying no fee at all as a result of deals made our leadership with the developers).
- Anticipated Additional Income from Development (see previous point above).
Earlier this week I observed our City Council’s Budget planning retreat. Each member of leadership was asked to share their budget priorities. Our current mayor brought forth his priority for a bathroom facility and sunshade for Judd Park. While I think that idea is interesting and would likely be appreciated by those that use that park, I say, too little, too late. Judd Park has been a problem since it opened in 2004 due to lack of shade. This problem was even identified in the 2008 PTOS Plan: “Addition of shade structures or trees would be welcome for sunny days”. Interesting that it is just now becoming a priority. I am also concerned that the cost benefit of constructing a bathroom at Judd park, hooking up sewer/electrical to serve it and maintenance costs (history of frequent vandalism at this park) will be difficult to justify when you look at the larger picture of park needs. I love Judd Park, but the reality is that it is a very small park (1/2 acre) with an inability to expand and limited and unsafe parking at a very busy intersection. The North UGA, for example, is just a few blocks away and was identified in the PTOS as the more logical location for a more highly developed 10 acre park with services such as a bathroom facility. Park planning takes vision and prioritization and cannot be a knee jerk, reactionary process.
Our community needs to understand the cost of continued development that is leading our City into greater and greater park deficit. Unless we can come up with a specific plan to address this growing park deficit, we need to tell our leadership to stop focusing on more and more developments and annexations of land for residential housing.