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Kiwanis take pride in namesake park

Kiwanis clubs from across the county teamed up to spruce up Kiwanis Field on April 5. - Courtesy photo
Kiwanis clubs from across the county teamed up to spruce up Kiwanis Field on April 5.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Effort part of story impacting

city facilities.

Jack Frost may have been in the air last Saturday, but at least the rain gods took a break as Kiwanis clubs from across Kitsap County descended upon Kiwanis Field in Bremerton to give the neighborhood park the first phase of a three-year facelift.

“It’s a nice surprise,” Bremerton Kiwanis Club president Carol Sue Rogers said of the pleasant weather that greeted the more than 20 volunteers as they braved the early morning chill to clean up the park.

The club had been looking for a community service project and when city of Bremerton parks director Wyn Birkenthal and parks planner Colette Berna presented the idea to the club in January, Rogers said everyone eagerly jumped on board.

“It’s a three-year project, and this is just the first part of what we’re doing,” Rogers said.

For Birkenthal, the Kiwanis effort is an example of the efforts that can “mean the difference between excellent parks and facilities in a jurisdiction and dilapidation.”

In an ever increasingly competitive grant atmosphere, community concern about the project becomes critical in securing the requested funding, he said.

“The grant rating criteria in each application will ask: Does the community care about the project; have non-profits or local business contributred to the planning effort? Have these same groups pledged construction labor and\or dollars to match the grant source?,” he said. “If we can’t answer these questions in the affirmitive other cities, park districts and counties will walk away with the available competitive funds and Bremerton’s project will be back to square one.”

In addition to helping the city secure state and other sources of funding for parks improvements, efforts like those of the Kiwanis have another beneficial effect, he said.

“When groups like Lions or Rotary and Kiwanis take ownership of a park vandalism drops because club members won’t stand for wanton destruction of their hard work,” he said.

While the April 5 work party was the first step in renovating the park, the best could be yet to come as part of a three-year plan, Birkenthal said.

“The elements include taking out the ugly chain link fence, irrigating the perimeter, planting flowering street trees to line the park, possibly removing the lower softball field and turning it into a family picnic area with an exciting and innovative playground that will be attractive to children, replacing the old restroom with smaller but functional restrooms on both the lower park and the soccer field, using imported fill to flatten out the slope between the upper and lower park and providing both steps and a ramp for travel between the two, rehabilitating one or two of the tennis courts and planting vines on the fencing to make the courts more attractive for homeowners living in sight distance, upgrades to the irrigation system and bright floral entry visible from the street,” he said.

There could also be a picnic shelter and tables next to the new family picnic area and there will be replanting the sloped portion of the park to become more attractive, he said.

“The one day clean-up is a good mechanisim to show the neighbors that Kiwanis and Bremerton Parks are serious and will not wait forever to get started with upgrades and to welcome neighbors suggestions and help into the fold,” he said. “The park should provide more activity for children and families once it is renovated and a gathering place for community picnics and celebrations.”

Ideally a neighborhood park should help to strenghten neighborhood cohesiveness and friendships, he explained.

“Right now the lower ballfield and tennis courts don’t quite accomplish this because of low usage and poor appearance,” he said. “The school district is helping us find a replacement field for some of the softball practices that do take place at Kiwanis. Bette Hyde has been great to work with on the idea of cooperative field sharing whenever possible to save real estate and maintenance costs.”

t Doing more with less

Service club involvement in city parks has become even more critical to maintaining and improving parks since the reduction in the motor vehicle excise tax capped car tabs at $30, he said.

“The initiative limiting property tax increases to 1 percent annually as oppossed to 6 percent in earlier times means there is less discretionry funding,” he said, meaning that parks have to compete with other high priority budget items like public safety.

Service organizations are encouraged to get involved and the process begins with a meeting with Birkenthal, who can be reached at (360) 473-5752 and the club’s board of directors to discuss the club’s specific desires, he said.

Afterward Berna sketches some options which are presented to the club’s general membership, he said.

“The only downside for some service clubs is that large state grants come up every other year, and this can be frustrating for a club whose leadership would like to see changes in the $100,000 to $500,000 range with a quick turnaround,” he said. “However sweat equity sets the stage for future grant success in many instances.”

t It’s all about kids

However, for kids in urban environments parks are an essential part of their overall physical well-being, he said.

“Kids are lacking physical activity with obesity on the rise and dense urban development gives little chance for nature exploration and negates opportunities to connect with the environment,” he said. “Parks have a low barrier to entry so the less wealthy the community the more important they are to youth and families. If most Bremerton residents had a vacation home on Hood Canal or Orcas Island the need for the walk to park would not be nearly as compelling as it is today.”

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