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New parks levy proposal aims to repair, add, and complete area trails

A proposal to renew the King County Parks levy includes both basic maintenance and bigger projects

Sammamish River Trail.
Courtesy of King County Parks

King County Parks Levy is up for renewal again, with the last levy, approved in 2013, about to expire. King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Thursday morning a plan for the next six-year levy, which funds park maintenance and improvements.

On deck if it passes this year, according to current plans: major improvements to regional trails and trailheads, replacing 11 ballfields, and rehabilitating play equipment. While it would fund some bigger projects, it’s also a big part of keeping the lights on, doing things like in addition to park maintenance and maintaining fencing. 80 percent of the King County Parks operational budget is funded by the levy, and it’s not just about county parks. $60 million goes to cities within King County to support local parks and recreation, and $35 million goes to a grant for cities to acquire and maintain open space.

But still, there are some headlines. The county wants to open 12 miles of the Eastside Rail Corridor to the public, including the Wilburton Trestle, something Constantine has had his eye on for a while, and complete the Lake to Sound and East Lake Sammamish trails. $8 million would go toward the county’s share of the Seattle Aquarium’s Ocean Pavillion, part of Seattle’s waterfront revitalization project, and $36 million would go toward the Woodland Park Zoo for youth education programs.

The measure would raise $738 million over the duration of the levy. While it’s a big increase from the previous levy, which raised about $396 million over the course of six years, the cost to the typical homeowner isn’t all that different. It would cost about 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, which the county said would cost someone with a home worth $500,000 about $7 a month, or $2 per month more than they would currently be paying.

This would be the third renewal of the levy, which was first approved by voters in 2003. The funds are reviewed by the Parks Levy Oversight Board, which includes an executive-appointed representative from each council district. (The new levy would renew the oversight board, too.)