Parks & Recreation: Ties that bind | Guest Column

Bill Cumming

By Bill Cumming

We all made the decision to live here on San Juan Island for different reasons.

We chose this community. This community is what makes us all unique and proud to be an islander.

Island Rec has been an important part of this community for over 31 years. Last year we provided over 2,700 hours of varied recreational programming to over 14,000 participants.

We maintain four parks; The Former Gravel Pit (LeFarge), the Skate Park and Family Park at the fairgrounds, and Eddie and Friends Dog Park. We sponsor Music On The Lawn and our energetic and enthusiastic Trails Committee, who continues to develop and open up miles of hiking trails all over the island.

We operate a large summer camp for kids (Camp Eagle Rock) and an after-school program for kids (STAR) that provides local families healthy and safe activities for children. These are rich and varied recreational opportunities for islanders and visitors alike and are part of what makes San Juan Island a great place to live and visit.

Six years ago our school district experienced a serious decline in financial support from the state.

Faced with decisions of where to cut, they rightfully chose to prioritize academics (keeping teachers in the classroom) and faced the very real possibility of eliminating high school sports. Island Rec, because of its status as a junior taxing district, successfully proposed and passed a levy to fund our high school sports.

Without this funding the high school sports program would cease to exist as we now know it. This is a unique solution that few communities can access.

Finally, our community has been given a new 32-acre park and field facility located at the end of Carter Street. This $3.5 million-dollar facility was built entirely by donations, without any tax dollars being used in the construction.

We are fortunate to be able to have a facility of this caliber for community use. Island Rec will properly operate and maintain this facility through a small addition to our levy request. Open to all for walking its trail, playing in the children’s park, or just running and playing on the fields when not in use by organized teams, this park complex is a welcome component of keeping our community vibrant, healthy, and safe.

Island Rec needs your support. Renewing our levy pays for so much: 18.5 cents will support wide and varied programming and the operations of current parks, 12 cents will continue to fund our high schools sports and 8 cents for the operations and maintenance of our new community park on Carter Street. This is money well spent for our community.

Let’s keep it beautiful. Let’s keep it vibrant and healthy. Let’s keep our island one of the very best places to live.

Let’s keep it our community. Vote YES for Island Rec.

— Editor’s note: former San Juan County sheriff Bill Cumming is chairman of elected commission of San Juan Island Parks and Recreation District, better known as Island Rec.