Parks district to seek input; considers new community center


The Point Roberts Park and Recreation District board is looking for public input on the direction the board should take as it considers possible new programs and infrastructure. Each board member has been appointed in the past year leaving the board with little institutional memory or knowledge. Before undertaking major or minor projects, members want to know the community’s opinion on if and how the district should grow and change. In its regular monthly board meeting on December 12 that lasted three hours, board members discussed the need for public input before making significant decisions involving taxpayer money.

“We all got into this because we want to see a better community, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re representing the community,” said Michael Cressy. The board agreed to conduct an online survey to ask residents what they would like to see the district accomplish in the near- and long-term.

One idea under discussion is to build a new community center at Baker Field on Benson Road. During the November district meeting, chair Mitch Friedman said, “It is clear that there is just not enough room [in the community center] for the growth the Point has had in the past few years. There is a lack of storage for the senior meals, food bank, PREP emergency shelter supplies, and park and rec supplies including kid’s camp. We are currently unable to feed the seniors in the dining room due to lack of space. We are often over-crowded during events and meetings. The kitchen septic system has been designated as a residential size and therefore unable to open the kitchen for community use.”

The issue was placed on the December agenda for further discussion. Chair Mitch Friedman opened the discussion by seeking approval to pay a $850 fee to hold a pre-development meeting with the county planning department. This sparked a prolonged discussion dealing mainly with the need to consult the public before presenting a proposal to the county.

“We need to know what kind of amenities the community wants,” said Cressy. “Whether or not they want expanded meeting rooms,whether they want an indoor pool, whether or not they want outdoor tennis, what kind of services would the community like to see in a facility. It is the community that will dictate the picture you’ll present to the county. Getting community input is a lot better than trying to push through our ideas,” he said.

Speaking in support of the proposal, board member Kathleen Friedman said, “There is a younger population moving into the community that would like to see different things being offered. We also have an aging community, and a swimming pool would be a great way to exercise that is low impact. I realize that Winskill is across the border, but I’d like to see more things for our community and not have to rely on Canada. If anything, the pandemic taught us that we are not self-sustaining. If there is another pandemic, I’m not sure we want to be put in the same shoes.”

The idea of building a new community center failed to impress a few residents who spoke during the meeting, citing the financial burden that would result. Former parks board director Stephen Falk said, “I think that it’s a ridiculous idea to spend the kind of money that you will be talking about. There are costs you aren’t thinking about when you are thinking about building a public works project.”

Former chair Bennett Blaustein, who recently resigned from the board, said, “By modifying the inside of the community center so that you can hold larger gatherings there, you would reduce your cost from millions of dollars to maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars. I think you’re going to have a hard time getting financing for the project you’re talking about right now, and I think you’re going to get a lot of opposition from the public.” Blaustein also noted that when the Blaine school district agreed to transfer the former school to the park district to use as a community center in 1968, the contract included a clause that the building would revert back to the school district if it was no longer being used as a community center.

The proposed community center would be located on the district’s skate park site on Benson Road next to the fire hall. In the meantime, the board is also debating what to do about the skate park ramps which are in sad shape. One proposal being considered is to convert the skate park into a multi-use court for tennis and pickleball and other uses.

The board was reminded that the district’s maintenance and operations levy expires next fall. The current six-year levy was approved by voters in November 2017 with 72 percent of voters in favor. In addition, the district is in the final year of a $250,000, 10-year General Obligation (GO) bond. The district currently owes $28,299 in principal and interest with a final maturity date of December 1, 2023. A new community center GO Bond would require approval by 60 percent of voters in a general election.

In addition, each member will face election in 2023.

Matt Wang counseled fellow board members and the public to keep in mind the financial impacts that result from building a new community center. “I would like to remind people that if we are building a new center, there could be a financial impact to your tax dollar. Sometimes I think a lot of people assume it is free, and everybody wants to have a newer and bigger center, but there could be financial stress.”

The district will alert the public through social media when the survey is live and open for input.


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