Poulsbo Parks and Recreation is preparing for 2021 and a post COVID-19 world. Ken Park/North Kitsap Herald

Poulsbo parks down, but preparing to play ball again

Like most things, COVID-19 has raised havoc on the Poulsbo Parks Department.

Heading into the last month of the year, the department has lost $300,000 in revenues and programs, making it difficult to maintain staff and facilities.

In contrast, over the past five years, the parks department has seen steady revenue and program growth and was on its way to another year of growth until everything was shut down.

In a recent presentation to theCity Council, parks director Mary McCluskey said in January she had six employees full-time and two part-time. By October, she had just three full-timers.

“These staffing changes greatly impact the number of programs and revenues that will be raised in 2021 and onward. If the city wants programs to resume, we need to have one employee doing just that,” McCluskey said, adding the part-time program manager needs to become full-time.

The department also would like to have more indoor facilities that can accommodate COVID-safe recreation.

Over 70 percent and half of the parks department programs and revenue come through the recreation center, which has been closed since March. It won’t reopen until Kitsap County reaches Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan. That won’t be anytime soon as coronavirus rates have been drastically rising of late.

Schools being closed to in-person learning due to COVID also have also hurt the parks department. Sixteen percent of the department’s programs and 36 percent of its revenue come from the North Kitsap School District facilities, which are subject to the same state mandates.

“All public facilities are closed so we can’t have any programs here at the rec center or at any of the school facilities. Right now groups larger than five cannot gather, indoor spaces are unavailable and this summer we had a lot of successes for our outdoor spaces, thanks to the Port of Poulsbo and to our outdoor parks. But there are only so many things you can do outside,” McCluskey said.

While things may not look well in the short-term, she said the long-term future looks bright with the new Poulsbo Events and Recreation Center. Construction will not be completed until 2025, however, and the project is currently going through its feasibility study.

“We know what the future is, and it is the PERC,” McCluskey said. “The planning and feasibility is going great guns right now; the survey has just closed. We’re going to take that information and consider what the next steps are, which includes a stakeholder group, and really start drilling down on some details.”

She reminded the community that COVID won’t last forever.

“COVID has changed this department and how we do business, but we all know that change can mean for the better,” McCluskey said.

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