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City of Kent seeks $1 million in grants to replace Lake Meridian Park dock

Men try their luck at the Lake Meridian Park fishing dock. Kent city officials hope to replace the dock with state and federal grant money. - ROSS COYLE, Kent Reporter
Men try their luck at the Lake Meridian Park fishing dock. Kent city officials hope to replace the dock with state and federal grant money.
— image credit: ROSS COYLE, Kent Reporter

Kent city officials are trying to obtain $1 million in federal and state grants to help pay to replace the deteriorating swimming and fishing dock at the popular Lake Meridian Park.

"The dock is at the end of its useful life, and its continuing decay becomes more difficult to address and consumes more and more of our maintenance resources," said Jeff Watling, city parks director, in an email.

Kent's in the running for a $500,000 federal grant as well as a $500,000 state grant. It's stiff competition against other cities for each grant as Kent tries to find a way to cover the estimated $1.7 million cost to remove the existing dock and build a new one using the same footprint.

Twenty-two projects totaling $8.1 million in 13 Washington counties applied to the state Recreation and Conservation Office to be awarded a grant covered by the federal government.

"The amount of funding available for Washington projects will be unknown until sometime in the summer or early fall after Congress passes its 2015 appropriations bill," said Frances Dinger, spokeswoman for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition that released on May 29 the list of grant applicants. "In the past few years, an average of about $1 million has been available for Washington projects."

The grants are from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which receives about $900 million per year in oil and gas royalties from offshore leases to divide among all 50 states for conservation and recreation projects.

"But more often than not, the funds are diverted for unrelated spending and many projects are left unfunded nationwide," Dinger said in an email. "LWCF has only been fully funded once in its entire history and, unless Congress acts to reauthorize it, the program could disappear next year."

The LWCF program is in its 50th year.

The state Recreation Conservation Office awards the available funds based on the ranking of the projects. Projects are ranked by a panel of experts on criteria such as quality, viability, level of need, etc. The office notifies the grant winners within a month after it knows the federal funding levels.

Cities and counties provide matching funds in order to receive a grant.

Kent hopes to match the funds with its application to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program to receive $500,000 next year for the new dock from the Legislature. That program awarded $65 million from the capital construction budget to fund more than 90 projects last year. A total of 217 projects are proposed this year.

"If the city is successful with its grants, work will likely commence in 2016," Watling said.

Lake Meridian Park serves residents of Kent, Covington, Maple Valley and Auburn. The park includes a summer beach with lifeguards.

City staff has no other options on the table to pay for the dock replacement, Watling said. Voters in 2012 turned down a property tax levy to pay for street and park repairs, including the dock replacement.

The dock remains safe now, Watling said. King County built the dock in the 1980s before Kent annexed the Lake Meridian area.

"We are currently monitoring the dock for safety issues," Watling said. "If it reaches the point where we believe it is no longer safe for the public, we will close it."

An advisory committee of city residents two years ago identified the Lake Meridian dock replacement as a high priority along with several other parks reinvestment projects.

"Funding for these priority projects continues to be sought," Watling said. "Significant reinvestment back into our parks system is needed for it to be the well-used, vibrant and healthy system that this community relies on."

The City Council in December approved an additional $500,000 in the 2014 budget to help pay for the synthetic turf replacement this summer at Wilson Playfields, a $1.7 million project. City officials covered the rest of the cost with $800,000 from the real estate excise tax and carryover money from previous years as well as delaying improvements at other parks.


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