City of Bellingham Measure
Proposition No. 2016-1
A Greenways Levy for Greenways, Open Space, Parks, Park Facilities
Official Ballot Title
For the purpose of funding development, acquisition, and maintenance of greenways, open space, parks, park facilities, and trails, this proposition would authorize the City to increase its regular property tax levy by up to $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to renew an expiring greenways levy, resulting in a total levy not to exceed $2.40 per $1,000 of assessed value, for 2017 collection, and to levy the additional amount for six succeeding years as allowed under RCW 84.55.
A Bellingham Greenways levy is on our November ballot to continue funding parks and trails. It is not a new tax but one we have paid for many years; in fact this levy, for the first time, is at a reduced rate from previous years. The visionary Greenways Program in Bellingham, funded by a citizen-supported property tax, has brought us a legacy of trails linked to parks. Since 1990, the popular Greenways Levy has expressed our community’s desire to incorporate urban forests, meadows, shorelines, and open spaces into the fabric of our lives and growing city. With this program we have chosen to protect important environmental corridors while building open spaces for people, wildlife and vegetation. Greenways, perhaps the most popular program in our city’s history, have created new and beloved public places and established the form of a vital, green infrastructure for our citizens.
Greenways was first established in Bellingham in 1990 when a group of farsighted citizens learned that old railroad lines that coursed through and around our city were being decommissioned. An opportunity was recognized to acquire those lines and create a trail network throughout our community. That first levy was passed with wide support and achieved its goal. When that first levy was set to expire in 1997, citizens again asked our City Council to place a Greenways measure on our ballot to re-authorize and continue the Greenways this time expanding its scope to include not only trails but new park sites as well. A precedent was set, and over the years Bellingham citizens have continuously maintained the Greenways program, recognizing its important value in building a first-class system of parks, trails and natural spaces.
The Bellingham we enjoy today is shaped, to a very great extent, by our ongoing commitment to Greenways. People may be unaware of the degree to which that is true: Cordata Park, Squalicum Creek Park, the Bay to Baker Trail, Chuckanut Forest, Little Squalicum Beach Park, Maritime Heritage Park, the Whatcom Creek Trail, the South Bay Trail, Taylor Street Dock, King Mountain View Park, Queen Mountain Forest, the Fairhaven Village Green are all Greenways projects. The list goes on. Greenways is our lasting gift to the future. It is something that we love and something that we should feel exceptionally good about. But there is still more to do, and the importance of saving open space, protecting wildlife habitat and providing natural amenities for ourselves and our grandchildren has never been more important. It is with this spirit that we express support for the Greenways 4 Levy.
The current Greenways Levy is due to expire at the end of 2016. Following precedent, a committee of citizens convened to envision the needs of the next levy. Over the course of months, this committee met with city parks officials and other interested citizens and learned about the present needs of the park and trail system in our community. One central observation was that we have been successful in acquiring parks and trails throughout our community to serve our growing population, and the next levy should place greater emphasis on restoring and developing those sites. We also learned that as the system has grown we need funds to ensure that we properly steward and maintain our parks system. A proposal was structured that allocates funds to benefit the entire Greenways program: 42 percent for restoration and development of sites previously acquired; 33 percent for acquisition to complete the purchase of important missing links; and 25 percent for maintenance and stewardship.
The next levy will ensure ecological restoration and development of park sites previously acquired; it will create public trails and parks on our future downtown waterfront; it will secure funding to maintain our parks, trails and natural spaces; it will provide funds that allow for community resiliency; and it will permit the completion of a trail network throughout our city. Greenways is one of the important things that makes Bellingham special. We hope that you will support and vote Yes on the Greenways levy.
Statement prepared by Seth Fleetwood, chair, Greenways Levy Campaign Committee, and John Blethen, member, Greenways Levy Campaign Committee.
Whatcom Watch would like to thank the Whatcom County Republican Party for its help in trying to find someone to write a “con” statement for the Greenways levy. However, we were not successful, and no one agreed to write one.