Combined parks district makes cooperative sense

December 19, 2012 

A good idea needs momentum to carry it out or else it dies.

We hope a new concept by the Kennewick Parks and Recreation Commission gets people excited enough to take it all the way to a plan that can eventually be put to voters.

The commission members recently announced they are going to research the possibility of forming a metropolitan park district in the coming year. The primary benefit is that it would create a new funding source for the park system and free up city taxes for other uses.

Another benefit is that the boundaries of the district can be flexible. So it could be a Kennewick-only district or it could be a regional district.

It's an intriguing concept that holds a lot of promise.

The parks are the one place in the Tri-Cities that are truly shared by everyone. Kennewick residents don't just use Kennewick parks. Richland residents don't use only Richland parks. The same situation is in Pasco and other neighboring communities. On any given day, at any given park, there will be people from all over the Tri-Cities enjoying the grass, the shade and whatever else the park has to offer, whether it's a playground, splash toys, tennis courts, picnic tables or just some peace and quiet.

With so many people from all over the region enjoying parks in different areas around the community, a regional park district makes sense. However, Kennewick city officials have noted that keeping the district only in Kennewick would give the city more control, which is something Kennewick city officials would find attractive.

They have also said, though, that all options are going to be researched in the coming year. This is wise. Creating a park district that potentially can be shared throughout the region is a concept that should include discussion from the entire Tri-City community.

While Kennewick officials are taking the lead on the issue at the moment, their reason behind creating the park district likely would appeal to other city and county officials as well.

Kennewick city administrators are concerned about the prospect of expenses outpacing revenue in the future, and are looking for ways to create new funding sources in order to avoid painful cuts to other city services.

Park districts are used to manage, improve and maintain parks as well as develop new ones and build recreational facilities. It seems on the surface that this is an area where cooperation between different cities and the county could work really well.

Members of the Kennewick Parks and Recreation Commission say they plan to talk to officials in other parts of the state where metropolitan parks districts have been successful and come up with an idea of what issues need to be addressed to get going on the proposal.

They are hoping to work out details through next year and have recommendations ready by the end of 2013. That's enough time to engage the county and nearby cities to see what kind of cooperative effort is possible.

Establishing a parks district is an intriguing idea. We're eager to see how it works out.

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