By Julie Muyllaert
Imagine: the people of the Methow Valley partnering together to improve recreation for our children, adults, seniors and visitors — now and for generations to come. On April 22 voters can choose to support the creation of an organization and a sustainable funding source that will help us all meet this vision.
The needs: In the Methow Valley, we have facilities such as the Wagner Memorial Pool in Twisp and the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink that serve the entire community. Yet the cost of maintaining and operating these facilities is supported by 14 percent of the assessed tax base, the residents and business owners in the towns of Twisp and Winthrop, along with a cadre of generous community donors. We also have other community-identified needs, such as ball fields and paths for seniors and parents with young children to walk in a safe environment.
We are fortunate that the Methow Valley boasts numerous organizations dedicated to recreation and countless individuals who are involved in supporting their respective recreational interests. However, we also have a large percentage of our population that does not have access to recreation because of a lack of resources, transportation and time.
The benefits: Recreation builds community and enhances the health of our children, adults and seniors. Recreation is also a significant and growing sector in our local economy. Individuals from different backgrounds and socio-economic groups come together to share a common interest. Children and youth learn about good sportsmanship, competition, commitment, teamwork and leadership. They also perform better in school.
Moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of seniors who are frail, or who have diseases that accompany aging. Recreation areas not only provide opportunities for physical activity, they also provide economic benefits to residents, municipal governments, local businesses and developers.
The challenges and solutions: There are several concerns regarding RCW 35.61, under which the Methow Valley Recreation District is proposed. Several community members fear the threat of eminent domain and excessive taxation. Some are also concerned that a vote for the recreation district will negatively impact the upcoming school levy.
We hear those concerns, and the candidates endorsed by the Friends of the Recreation District, if elected, commit to enacting policies immediately after the formation of the district to prohibit the acquisition of property and engaging in any eminent domain action. They also commit to engaging Methow Valley residents in the prioritization and selection of recreation projects, and the development of a fiscally conservative budget.
We believe that RCW 35.61 best meets the interests and needs identified by the residents of the Methow Valley. Taxes are collected locally and spent locally. Commissioners are accountable to the taxpayers and residents of the Valley.
Partner with us: We believe that the Methow Valley Recreation District as proposed is the best option for our community to provide a sustainable funding source for the recreational facilities and program that we love, and support the development of programs to meet the needs of our friends and neighbors.
Julie Muyllaert is co-owner of Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop and is a candidate for the proposed recreation district’s board of commissioners.
For more of our in-depth coverage on the proposed Methow Valley Recreation District, see this week’s (April 2) related stories, editorials and letters: Candidates’ forum draws packed house, On the record: Recreation district commission candidates have their say, FAQ: Rec district, Editorials, My turn: Con, Letters to the Editor, and the somewhat related: County commissioners reorganize county fair and recreation boards