FOLKpark down, not out

Frausto to pursue other opportunities; Windermere to pitch in on June 18 cleanup

Because the restoration at lower Kinnear Park wasn't among the top 10 projects considered for some of the $15 million in Seattle Parks funding, organizers plan to appeal and keep fighting for other opportunities to improve the Queen Anne park.
The founder of FOLKpark, or Friends of Lower Kinnear Park, a grass-roots organization formed to fix up Kinnear Park, was dismayed about Seattle Parks and Recreation's recommendation last week to fund several other projects within its Opportunity Fund.
"It's a big blow," said Debi Frausto, FOLKpark founder. "Certainly we were disappointed. It's always hard in that, you do your best and you put it out there. But you don't know what the other projects are. All you can do is look at how you scored and say somehow we didn't tell the story right."
The fund is part of the Seattle Parks and Green Spaces Levy passed in 2008, which is dedicated to restoring or creating new park space in Seattle. About 150 projects were submitted to Parks earlier in the year. That lot was pared down to 95. And from the 95, Parks made its recommendations to the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee. Kinnear was nowhere near the top.
But there is still a chance. The levy committee will host two open meetings June 14 and 28 during which representatives of each of the 95 projects considered can make one last appeal. Each appeal is limited to two minutes, which doesn't give Frausto a lot of time to restructure Kinnear's argument. Nonetheless, she is planning to speak and focus on how the project will save money.
Frausto had previously framed the argument for the park on its historical merits, improving safety and adding more native plants, which, in the current economic climate, may have backfired.
When the levy was passed, it was done so without any maintenance funding, a City Council decision made to help ease the financial burden on voters. But Parks, along with every other department in the city has since been asked by the mayor to make budget cuts at a minimum of 3 percent - and likely twice that by next year to help cap the city's anticipated $50 million shortfall.
Though Frausto doesn't know whether Parks made its recommendations based on projects that would require little maintenance funding, she is planning on formulating her appeal around that, and what it would cost Parks if no action were taken.
"When I compare [the Kinnear restoration] to a park in decline and the amount of monies that were expended to deal with that...people don't quantify those things. When you have gun shots, police have to respond to that."
Frausto is referring to Kinnear's recent troubles, such as drug dealing, drug use and violence in the park. In late 2008 and in the winter of 2009, a group of Honduran men were selling crack cocaine in the park. Seattle Police mounted a raid after making undercover purchases and taking photos. Of 52 suspects, 30 were taken into custody, according to Seattle Police.
"I think we'll come back in and stress the costs that were expended in that time frame and that it's an easy slide back to that position if you don't activate the park," Frausto said. Frausto is working with the police to gather statistics. "We have nothing to lose at this point."
But Frausto is not clinging to any thread of hope the Opportunity Fund may present. Instead, she's working on the Department of Neighborhood's upcoming Large Project Fund. FOLKpark has already applied for that fund's maximum $100,000, which would pay for the park's design development. And she is soliciting funding from all walks and in all ways.
In mid-May, FOLKpark members and friends met at 10 Mercer restaurant in lower Queen Anne to discuss fundraising ideas. Everything from selling items on eBay to giving park tours were bandied about. And it was that meeting that led to Windermere Real Estate's Wall Street office dedicating its service day June 18 to Kinnear Park.
"I talked to Claudia Case at the Queen Anne [Windermere] office and she said they has an opportunity with more projects than they had manpower," said Jake Jacobsen, a real estate agent at Windermere's Wall Street office, and who is heading up the agency's service day.
For one day a year, Windermere agents close their offices and get out into their communities to volunteer in some way. The Wall Street office had planned on working with the Pike Place Market but when that fell through, the Kinnear project came up. Jacobsen will have 30 to 40 staffers clearing out blackberry bramble, English ivy and other non-native species from the park. The ivy, in particular, is strangling some of the maple and madrone trees.
Jacobsen met with Frausto last week to identify the hot spots. Parks is providing the gloves and tools, but Jacobsen and company will do the rest.
"We've done this type of thing before, and this is a win win for both of us," Jacobsen said. "I always bring a supply of gloves and cold water. One of our sponsors here will show up with coffee and donuts."[[In-content Ad]]