2019 Questions Proposed by Quality Bainbridge to the 2019 BI Metropolitan Park & Recreation District Candidates: Answers by Rachel Pritchett, Commissioner Position 3 Candidate
What interests inspired you to run for a position as a commissioner of the Park and Recreation Board?
The impressive array of parks, trails, recreational opportunities and classes make Bainbridge an unmatched place to live, whether you're raising a family or enjoying retirement. Having lived on Bainbridge nearly 30 years, raised a family here, worked and retired here, I know the parks district has strongly benefited my family and many others, from its toddler swimming classes to its teen paddles to its t’ai chi classes for older adults. I love our parks, and it's time for me to give back. Now retired from a long and successful career in local newspaper journalism, I finally have the time to give back to my beloved community and to help take the parks district into the future.
The park district is at a critical juncture, with two massive projects totaling as much as $95 million, the pool and the Sakai property, soon to move to center stage. I am concerned that the park board of commissioners will not be well-equipped to address these issues. Even now, there are too many people on the board who have been there too long. My opponent has been on the board for 18 years and is asking for 24 years. That is not good government, by any measure. What happens is that historical knowledge becomes too concentrated in too few people on the board. When they do leave, that knowledge is lost. This is compounded by the fact that there are several key staff members who are nearing retirement. I favor staggered terms to bring the strongest board we can into the future.
Describe your relevant previous experiences that prepare you for the board role.
I know how government works and I have covered local, state and national governments as a journalist and editor for many years. I have covered the parks board for the Kitsap Sun and Bainbridge Islander. I have watched the park district in triumph and defeat. Presently, the park district no longer is covered by journalists. I will bring a watchful and inquiring eye to the oversight of the district. I will always stand for honesty and transparency.
Having lived on the island for nearly 30 years, I am in tune with many different groups that include education, youth and sports groups; farming and business groups; environmental groups; service groups; the Girl Scouts; and religious groups. In my retirement, I serve as the part-time administrator of Bethany Lutheran Church. I am you.
What skills, training, resources, and expertise will you bring to the Board?
Very few island residents come to park district meetings. And very few people (about one in 24, by the park district’s own measure) are aware of big issues like the remake of the Ray Williams Pool and development of Sakai Park.
Drawing on my career in the public arena, I will encourage the park district to use methods it doesn’t use now to get its message to residents. This will include inclusion of educational materials in its direct-mail catalog. I will oversee expanded use of direct mail, and expand the use of opportunities in local newspapers and other media outlets, such as editorial-board interviews and guest columns. I will oversee improvements in the park district’s use of social media and exploit opportunities in local TV access.
I will speak to service, educational and environmental groups to engage them. I know how to connect with other groups and work together. The park district needs to improve how it connects with city, school district and fire department.
In addition, I will make the park-district meetings more inviting to the public. Presently, audience members cannot hear. Staff members never identify themselves. Commissioners talk in shorthand. Relevant materials are never distributed to the audience. Visuals used in presentations cannot be seen by the audience. Commissioners and staff simply want to talk to each other; no public needed.
My education includes a master’s degree from Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, and an undergraduate liberal arts degree, also from Northwestern.
What are the most important challenges/projects facing the Park and Recreation District in the next few years?
Ray Williamson Pool needs to be replaced. Three alternatives are on the table; a same-sized replacement for $30 million, an Olympic-sized one for $43 million and one in-between for $37 million. Momentum among commissioners, staff and a few user groups for the Olympic pool is snowballing. But the Kitsap Public Facilities District refused to give $15 million for the Olympic pool. With good reason. A huge pool on a small, leased space in the smallest school district in Kitsap County simply is not the right place. The economic impact would be minimal, and the carbon footprint of visiting teams enormous. I favor the mid-sized option.
Planning is underway for development of Sakai Park. Plans envision a fieldhouse, parks offices, buildings and trails for $52 million. To reduce cost, I would preserve trails but scale down buildings, moving the parks offices downtown, postponing ancillary buildings, and concentrating on the field house, which would serve youth and seniors.
Continued development of trails in general is essential. The parks department needs to work with the city to provide safer and contiguous walking and biking paths to get us to school, work and the ferry safely.
What can and should the Park District do to reduce its carbon footprint and prepare for climate change?
When it comes to environmental health, the fine legacy of the park district and friends can be expanded.
We must seek out new opportunities to add to the island’s trails, open spaces and beaches.
We must set the example of getting out of our cars. Further development of mainly north-south trails for walkers and cyclists can someday offer a safer and more inviting alternative. Park vehicles and equipment, as they are replaced, should have zero-carbon emissions.
Although a lot of work has been done, the district must more fully engage with volunteers to prevent the spread of invasive English Ivy and Scotch broom.
The district must inventory chemicals it uses to maintain its parks, ponds and trails to ensure that they are neutral to the environment. That includes any glyphosate-like herbicides that, besides killing weeds, can harm aquifers, streams and wildlife.
The district has an obligation to educate residents to live with a smaller footprint, through its classes. Topics might be organic-gardening and cyclist and pedestrian safety.
The district must work with the city to reduce the number of unused buoys clogging our shorelines and harbors.