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Residents can adopt county parks

Island County Commissioner Angie Homola speaks with resident Marilyn Brownstein about the county’s new Adopt-A-Park program Thursday morning at Libbey Beach Park. Brownstein and her dog, Renny Rae, are daily users of the waterside park. - Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
Island County Commissioner Angie Homola speaks with resident Marilyn Brownstein about the county’s new Adopt-A-Park program Thursday morning at Libbey Beach Park. Brownstein and her dog, Renny Rae, are daily users of the waterside park.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

Island County commissioners managed to keep all of the county parks open despite drastic budget cuts over the last year and calls from some officials to “mothball” the parks. But the parks department was left with just one park technician to maintain all 35 parks on Whidbey Island.

Now individuals, families or can help the county pick up the slack and keep the parks beautiful. Monday, the commissioners approved a new Adopt-A-Park program modeled after the popular Adopt-A-Road program.

Steve Marx has been the parks director since the department moved to public works in April. He said he already has a list of individuals and groups interested in the program, which was first suggested by Budget Director Elaine Marlow.

“They get really excited,” he said. “It gives them a chance to take ownership of their parks.”

Under the program, the volunteers will enter into a contract with the county to perform clean-up and grounds maintenance. That may include trash pick-up, weeding, brush trimming and possibly small repair projects. Also, Marx said it’s helpful to have people keeping watchful eyes on public land.

The agreement would last for two years. During that time, a sign would be posted at the park identifying the group or individual responsible for the clean-up and maintenance.

Island County Commissioner Angie Homola said she’s excited about the program. She’s a big supporter of parks and even donated $2,500 of her salary to parks, along with $2,500 for the WSU Extension.

While other counties are closing parks, Homola argues that public parks are needed more now — during a recession — than ever before.

“Visiting a park is a great way to stretch your legs and it’s a great way to relieve stress without having to spend money,” she said.

Still, the county parks department is running on bare bones. Marx said the tiny department essentially lost two full-time positions during the budget cuts, leaving one park tech on Whidbey and one on Camano Island. The park tech on Whidbey has the advantage of being able to utilize free labor from the county jail.

To lessen the amount of work, Marx said they removed trash cans from 10 parks on Whidbey Island and instituted a “pack-in, pack-out policy.”

“Trash removal is huge,” he said. “We just don’t have the resources to deal with it.”

County parks come in all shapes and sizes, from a half-acre at the Cornet Bay dock on North Whidbey to the 399-acre Driftwood Park on Keystone Avenue on Central Whidbey. A list and description of all county parks is available at www.islandcounty.net/publicworks/parks/ParkLocations.htm.

Anyone interested in adopting a park should contact Joantha Guthrie at 679-7331.

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