On Thursday, King County Executive Dow Constantine unveiled his plan for the King County Parks levy reauthorization to appear on the August ballot. The levy would raise approximately $738 million over the next six years and make new investments in parks, trails, and open space.

“This proposal isn’t just about access to parks and recreation–although that is plenty. It is about a generational investment in our environment,” Executive Constantine said. “The levy is entirely consistent with my priorities to restore and protect our rivers, forests, and farms, while also doing our part to tackle climate pollution. Voters have approved the Parks Levy three times since 2003. No matter how much things grow and change around here, our values stay the same, guiding us to support investments that make stronger, healthier, and happier communities.”

According to the Executive’s Office, the parks proposal would make investments to expand and improve access to 200 parks, 175 miles, and 28,000 acres of open space across the county by:

  • “Building and designing regional trails, including missing links and crossings over rivers and highways”;
  • “Improving trailheads by adding parking and signage”;
  • “Repairing trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding”;
  • “Replacing 11 ballfields”;
  • “Rehabilitating play area equipment in six parks”; and
  • “Maintaining park infrastructure, such as pathways, roofs, fencing, and electrical systems.”
King County Parks levy projects for 2020-2025. (King County)
King County Parks levy projects for 2020-2025. (King County)

A large share of the revenue would be earmarked for other local jurisdictions and wildlife organizations:

  • $8 million would go to the Seattle Aquarium to fund construction of the Ocean Pavilion as part of the new waterfront;
  • $36 million would go to the Woodland Park Zoo for conservation and environmental education programs;
  • $35 million would be made available as grants to local cities to protect and acquire open space; and
  • $60 million would be dispersed to local cities to support parks and recreation programs and projects.

The levy should help to continue building out and improve regional trails, too. One of the big ticket items is opening 12 miles of the Eastside Rail Corridor. A key component of this is retrofitting the Wilburton Trestle. This will enable people to use the trail from Woodinville to Renton. Another priority is finishing the Lake to Sound Trail, allowing trail users to reach Puget Sound in Des Moines as far as Renton on a 16-mile corridor. The levy would also fund the last paved segment on the 11-mile East Lake Sammamish Trail. If done right, the trails could go a long way to providing mobility between urban centers and pockets of density, making biking an attractive transportation option.

King County voters first approved the parks levy in 2003 and then reauthorized it in 2007 and 2013. This reauthorization would include a levy of 16.82 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The county estimates that an owner of a home valued at $500,000 would pay about $84 per year, which is about $24 more than now. The current levy is set to expire at the end of December.

The Metropolitan King County Council will be tasked with taking up the measure to put a final version on the ballot. That should occur over the next several months with clearer details.

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