Happy trails: Seattle likely to ask voters for more parks money

SEATTLE -- What's the Emerald City without more green? Voters could be asked to answer that question come August.

A parks committee is expected to recommend Thursday that the Seattle mayor and city council seek $2.9 million from the public through a vote this summer. The money would help restore the city's natural forestland, provided needed repairs to parks facilities, and improve more than 100 miles of trails, said Joelle Hammerstad, communications manager for the Parks Department.

Currently, the city only has two full-time employees to maintain about 120 miles of trails in city parks, said Chukundi Salisbury, who heads up the trails program.

"Our budget has been the same for 10 years," Salisbury said, while pointing out that the number of trails in the city has nearly doubled since 15 years ago. "I'm the guy who recruits the volunteers. You can tell I'm the trails cheerleader, if you will. The more volunteers we have, the more trails we can maintain."

Salisbury said volunteers were responsible for helping reopen a popular trail at Carkeek Park not too long ago, but that a beloved trail at Louisa Boren Park on Capitol Hill has been closed for about four years because of lack of volunteer assistance.

"From time to time when we don't have volunteer groups in the area to maintain it, we tend to close some areas. In this particular case we've closed this trail until we can recruit neighborhood folks to help us out," Salisbury said.

Nigora Khakimova, who works down the street from the Capitol Hill lookout, visits the park a few times a week to clear her head, she said.

"I like the view. I like the walk. I like the peace of mind. I was actually amazed by the system (Seattle has) here," Khakimova said. "There's a lot of trails, I know. It's very important to maintain them. The parks are amazing."

Hammerstad said about two dozen different items are included in the package that will likely be sent to city leaders, including major maintenance projects, such as repairs. The ballot measure would also establish a 'trail crew' to help regularly maintain the city's 120 miles of trails.

"When we have well-maintained and safe and open trails, it leads to positive behavior and obviously there's a decrease in negative behavior," added Salisbury. "That helps everybody."