Michael Harthorne
Loyal Heights resident Mindy Terence discusses her campaign to save Ballard's community centers from possible budget-related closures at the Ballard Urban Picnic May 1.

Ballard resident fights to save community centers

When Loyal Heights resident Mindy Terence heard outgoing Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Tim Gallagher tell KING 5 TV that the city's current budget crisis could necessitate the closure of one of Ballard's two community centers, she took action.

Terence started circulating a petition May 1 to keep the Ballard Community Center and Loyal Heights Community Center from becoming victims of city budget cuts.

Joelle Hammerstad, spokesperson for Seattle Parks and Recreation, said while Gallagher can speak freely about the particulars of the budget process because he has already offered his resignation, regular employees are restricted from speaking directly about what the department calls the "deliberative process."

The city's acting budget director has asked Parks to propose reductions of 3 percent, and cuts are likely to be implemented around July 1, Hammerstad said.

Terence said her and her two children use Loyal Heights Community Center four to six times a week for preschool, gymnastics classes and more.

The Loyal Heights Community Center is a hub for community activity for the surrounding neighborhoods, Terence said. It provides preschool and teen programs, recreational classes for adults and children, and informational classes, such as CPR training, she said.

But, she said the Ballard Community Center is just as important to its neighbors.

"Just as the Loyal Heights Community Center is my home away from home, I know there is another person who regards the Ballard Community Center the same way," Terence said.

She said both community centers have hosed fundraisers for teen programs and nonprofits, such as Loyal Heights Community Center's annual pancake breakfast and Ballard Community Center's hosting of the Empty Bowls fundraiser.

Both community centers are heavily used and provide an ideal meeting place for large groups of neighbors, Terence said.

"It's important to keep both centers open because these are actual places," she said. "If you want to organize an event and want to throw it open for the neighborhood, you need a place."

Hammerstad said budget cuts made in midyear 2009 and 2010 represented the department's best efforts to find efficiencies and trim functions with as little impact on the public as possible.

"The budget cuts we face for midyear 2010 and 2011 will almost certainly require us to close some facilities and cut back some services and programs," she said.

Hammerstad said Parks is considering everything as a candidate for potential cuts.

Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter said the department may know more about specific cuts after a May 13 funding meeting. Hammerstad said the extent of the changes to Parks facilities and services will not be known until after Mayor Mike McGinn goes through the budget priority process.

Terence said her goal is to gather 3,000 signatures and to get as many people as possible to attend the city's final public budget hearing to support Ballard's community centers.

The final public budget hearing is at 5:30 p.m. on May 4 at North Seattle Community College, located at 9600 College Way N. Signups to speak at the hearing begin at 5 p.m.

Click here to sign Mindy Terence's online petition.

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