Si View Metropolitan Park District Commissioner Position 2 candidates are Katie Klahn, a public education program specialist at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center, and Mark Correira, fire chief of the Snoqualmie Fire Department.
What do you feel is the best plan to protect parks in the area?
Klahn: Creating value for our residents is the key to protecting parks for the future. This means fulfilling the current mission of the Si View Metropolitan Park District: “to work in partnership with the community to preserve historic Si View Park and provide opportunities to enhance the quality of life…” The great thing about a community-centered mission is that it includes something for everyone. For me, open spaces are the parks most worth protecting. These natural lands support wildlife habitat and renew the human spirit’s connection to nature. They create the “blank spaces” that soothe our senses and psyches. For others, ball fields fulfill the values of team spirit and connection with family. Yet others support park facilities that host enriching events, classes and workshops. When residents’ values are reflected in their community, funding will be upheld to preserve those parks and opportunities well into the future.
Correira: I believe we need to protect these public assets and investments through a robust maintenance and equipment replacement plan funded through existing tax dollars or revenue generated through recreational programming. This would allow our parks, trails and open spaces to be adequately maintained and allow for equipment to be replaced when it is no longer safe to use. Also, there is a benefit to working with other agencies who share the common goal of preserving and protecting our parks and trails. King County, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Mountain to Sound Greenway, Washington Trails Association and the city of Snoqualmie are ideal partners. One example of a recent productive partnership is the creation of the new Tenant Trailhead Park, a 31.86-acre park off Ribery Way initially planned for development. The Parks District, King County, city of North Bend and the Trust For Public Lands worked together to protect this natural space, which will eventually connect the city of North Bend with the Rattlesnake Ridge hiking system and the Raging River Mountain Biking trails. These powerful partnerships can pool resources, protect precious greenspaces, and better connect parks, trails and open spaces.
Do you approve of a new aquatics center in the area? If so, how would it be a viable inclusion to the area?
Klahn: A 2016 survey of the Si View MPD revealed that an aquatics center was a top priority of our community. While I myself am not an avid swimmer or frequent pool user, as a park commissioner it is important to me that our community’s wishes be heard. The existing Si View Pool does a great job of providing lessons, rec time and classes, but it can’t keep up with the demands of our growing population and changing times. From my experience, as soon as my kids got to be 10 or so, they no longer wanted to go to the pool just for fun. It felt too crowded. And, dare I say, boring. After visiting the Snohomish and Bainbridge aquatics centers with the lazy rivers, water slides, splash pads, it was hard to compare! Having pleasurable aquatic experiences are critical for water safety. Living near rivers, our children need all the exposure they can get to increase their comfort and confidence with swimming. Another bonus of a new aquatics center is that Mt.Si High could have a local competitive pool for their swim and diving teams.
The aquatics center feasibility study conducted by the Si View MPD states that “there is a definite market for an additional facility.” This was determined after analyzing the demographics of the district as well as Snoqualmie, Fall City and Preston. With increasing property taxes, the question of funding such a facility is paramount. Although a March 2019 survey indicated that 85 percent of respondents were likely to approve an additional $12/month in property taxes for construction and operation of a new facility, this needs to be recalculated once we have more information from other funding sources. The new aquatics center could be a wonderful resource for our valley with support from the city of Snoqualmie, the school district and other funders.
The study indicates that the existing Si View Pool would close if a new facility were built. I would suggest looking into this further, as the old pool still has value. Perhaps it could benefit Encompass and the school district for therapeutic uses. Its proximity to senior housing and the senior center makes it a perfect setting for aquatic exercise classes. Depending on a cost/benefit analysis, I like the idea of retaining the smaller, quiet pool for a variety of users who prefer such a setting.
Correira: I support a new aquatics center in the upper valley. All regional surveys support an aquatics center in the upper valley, and a recent Snoqualmie Valley School District survey showed overwhelming support for a competition pool that would support a competitive swimming and diving program for high school students.
The current Si View pool is too small and does not meet the needs of the region. Having a recreational pool for the residents would create a healthier community through expanded exercise programs. It also creates a safer community through children having access to swim lessons as part of the school’s curriculum. Additionally, a competitive pool that meets the school district’s needs would allow for swimming and diving competitions to be hosted locally. It would also allow the school district to expand its aquatics program into water polo.
An aquatics center could support the local economy through the expansion of parks district programming (kayak training, scuba training, water aerobics, etc.), and offset the cost of operating the facility. It could also drive tourism as some may travel to the area to use the facility.
But ultimately, this decision will likely come down to the voters as the current plan requires partnerships and a voter-approved-bond to fund the building of the center.
What is the ideal way to improve connections between parks?
Klahn: Trails. Trails get you places without being in the fray of traffic. My vision is to not only create more connections between parks, but also between neighborhoods. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to easily and safely reach the Snoqualmie Valley Trail from any neighborhood? Partitioned bike lanes, forested paths and neighborhood easements all ensure safe access. With the development of Tennant Trailhead Park and South Fork Landing, both south of Interstate 90, I’m interested in creating well-marked connections from central North Bend to the proposed mountain bike trails.
Correira: I believe we should improve connections between parks by expanding the existing trail system. Trails are linear parks that provide recreation opportunities and connect other parks together. Some of these connections have already begun. As an example, the Si View Parks District and the city of North Bend have already connected the Meadowbrook Farm/Snoqualmie Valley Trail/Tollgate Farm connection that opened earlier this year. I also believe connecting existing parks to downtown North Bend, connecting the new South Fork Landing park to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, and expanding trails along the rivers would be beneficial to the trails and parks system.
Working with other agencies is important to create a robust regional trail system that could connect the larger regional parks in the area. Partnering would allow agencies to align their policies and municipal codes, and plan for future connections to create a comprehensive parks and trail system for residents and visitors to enjoy. Finally, these trails could be colored, measured and mapped to highlight exercise routes (with different mileages) for walking, running or biking enthusiasts to utilize. They could also be used to host running and biking competitions, or create different routes for local nonprofit fundraisers, like the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event.
How do you plan to further make parks more accessible for visitors?
Klahn: The tagline on my website is “Parks for All.” This means that the needs of all are considered in park planning. “Parks for All” includes parks for people who use wheelchairs and for whom wood-chip playgrounds could pose a challenge. “Parks for All” means that parks and trails are developed throughout the entire district, in partnership with new housing developments. “Parks for All” includes playgrounds with fences for kids who are prone to running off. “Parks for All” takes cultural perspectives into account when designing spaces. “Parks for All” pursues the input of underrepresented people who may not expect to have a voice but deserve to be heard. “Parks for All” means that interpretive signs are written for an eighth-grade reading level, placed at an accessible height, with large enough text. “Parks for All” provides a space for you, no matter your age, interests, gender or ability. It would be an honor to work alongside the other four park commissioners to provide parks that are accessible to all.
Correira: Accessibility for visitors and residents of all ages and abilities is very important. Some simple fixes to improve awareness of our parks and trails would be better way-finding signage, conspicuous mapping near trail systems or at different storefronts, marketing through tourism guides and more online marketing of parks. Other agencies such as the upper Valley cities, chamber of commerce and local service clubs could share in the expense as they would benefit from these marketing efforts.
Accessibility for people with disabilities is needed in the region. Wheelchairs access is limited at Tollgate Park and its connections to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. The Tennant Trail Head and South Fork Landing are currently being planned but must be designed to allow access for all people regardless of mobility. Additionally, there isn’t any all-inclusive playgrounds located in the upper Snoqualmie Valley. These types of playgrounds allow children of all abilities to play together and could create destination parks for visitors and residents to use. All of these efforts could support the local economy by having visitors stay longer and support businesses while visiting our parks.