Seattle’s Parks and Rec isn’t giving up. But trying to pull together the 14th annual Cal Anderson Independence Day Picnic might be a losing battle.
Following an extremely sparsely attended community meeting earlier this week to rally support — and find an organizer — for this year’s picnic, the department says it hasn’t given up hope that someone will step forward and claim the $1,500 budget for supporting the community event. But candidates to pull the event together aren’t exactly lining up. A past organizer of the picnic, one of the few people who showed up at Tuesday’s meeting interested in possibly getting involved, has decided not to take on the project, Seattle Parks says.
The scramble follows the exit of longtime picnic organizer the Cal Anderson Park Alliance from the event. No formal statement has come from the advocacy group about its decision not to be responsible for organizing this year’s picnic. Recent budgets for the free picnic that has featured live music and free food and ice cream have come in around $15,000 CHS has been told. Groups including the Capitol Hill Community Council and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce have so far declined to be responsible for the event. The feedback: Nobody has time.
The $1,500 or so Seattle Parks can put up for the 2016 event would mean an extremely pared down event — if City Hall can find somebody to pull the party together. Watch for an announcement on the status of the picnic plan soon, a parks rep tells CHS.
UPDATE 6/10/2016: We’ve asked the Cal Anderson Park Alliance for more about the situation behind the scenes and the group has been working together to come up with a reply. Friday, CAPA sent out the lengthy statement below. Here’s the core. “It was a difficult but strategic decision for us to not produce the picnic,” the CAPA statement reads. “We know the community loves the event, as do we. We are deeply concerned about the condition of the Park, and we believe that any funding or staffing resources available through Seattle Parks & Recreation should be directed towards park maintenance and safety efforts and not a one-time 4-5 hour event.” Also — good news :) — CAPA will again be working with CHS on Capitol Hill Garage Sale Day in August. Watch for more on that soon.
The full statement is below.
A response from the Cal Anderson Park Alliance (CAPA) to the recent press releases and subsequent media stories about the July 4th Independence Day Picnic that we have historically produced in Cal Anderson Park.
We are concerned that these media stories do not accurately depict events that have taken place leading to our decision not to produce the picnic this year.
The Cal Anderson Park Alliance (CAPA) is a very small, yet dedicated group of community volunteers who work to activate Cal Anderson Park and advocate for the health and safety of the park. Over the years we have produced many events, including the July 4th Independence Day picnic for over a decade. We have also taken on the Capitol Hill Community Garage Sale and are responsible for the ping pong table that was in the park last summer. Of all the events we have produced, the July 4th picnic is the largest and requires the most time, effort and funding. Typically the picnic costs somewhere between $7500 -$15,000 and involves countless hours of volunteer effort and many in-kind donations from local small businesses.
At the end of 2015, as we assessed the growing needs of the park and concerns from the community about park safety and maintenance, we decided not to produce the July 4th picnic and rather to focus our limited bandwidth on advocacy for the park. To give ample time for the community to find an alternative coordinating group, in January of 2016 we notified Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), the Capitol Hill Chamber, Capitol Hill Housing, and the Capitol Hill Community Council. None of these organizations were able to dedicate the resources to produce and plan this event either, but understood our decision.
We were quite surprised Friday, June 3 to receive a forwarded press release about the July 4th Picnic. No member of CAPA was given any notice this release was going out. At no time in the last six months were we told that SPR was willing to dedicate any staff time or funding for this event.
If SPR had been willing this past winter to help with the planning efforts or provide any funding, we might have reconsidered our decision and might have felt more able to balance planning a July 4th picnic with the need to focus on advocacy. Other community partners might also have felt more able to take over planning when we alerted them of our decision and invited them to consider producing the picnic No support was offered to us or to any other organizations (to our knowledge) to help plan the picnic. In fact, we do not receive any ongoing funding from SPR. To fund our efforts in the past, we have written successful grants to the Department of Neighborhoods and have raised money through sponsorship and collaboration with other neighborhood organizations (including benefiting from past Only in Seattle grant funding) as well as generous in-kind donations from local businesses to accomplish our work. We have always had to raise and secure our own funding to produce the picnic and any other CAPA-produced events in the park.
Over the past few months, during the period in which we would typically be spending many hours planning and fundraising for the four to five hour-long July 4th event, we have instead been able to focus on community concerns in the park such as the water issues in the reflecting pool, graffiti and ongoing park maintenance, which continues to be an issue. Also we have been working with community partners to advocate for the continuation of the “Summer of Safety” program which would include funding for park concierges this summer. Staffing and maintenance of the park are serious concerns as Cal Anderson Park is highly utilized by the community and continues to have disparities in investment compared to other high-use city parks like Westlake and Occidental. We are also working with neighborhood organizations (Capitol Hill Housing, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Capitol Hill Champion, Capitol Hill Community Council) on next steps needed to gather support and funds to move forward with implementation of recommendations from the City-funded Cal Anderson Park Lighting Master Plan (completed December 2015) to help make Cal Anderson Park more enjoyable and safe year-round. Finally, we have recently opened a dialogue with the new Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation, Jesús Aguirre.
It was a difficult but strategic decision for us to not produce the picnic. We know the community loves the event, as do we. We are deeply concerned about the condition of the Park, and we believe that any funding or staffing resources available through Seattle Parks & Recreation should be directed towards park maintenance and safety efforts and not a one-time 4-5 hour event.
We ask our neighbors and community members to consider volunteering with us. As the advocacy needs of Cal Anderson Park grow, we need to grow the Alliance. We know there are many of you reading this who not only enjoy spending time in the park, but also care about the park and recognize it is a vital and vibrant part of Capitol Hill. Please help us expand our efforts as volunteer advocates, ambassadors and stewards of Cal Anderson Park.
The Cal Anderson Park Alliance
UPDATE 6/16/2016: Seattle Parks has joined the great Capitol Hill Independence Day “press release” battle of 2016 with this announcement *not* that the 4th of July picnic is happening, but that the planning for the 4th of July picnic is happening… which we guess is better news for picnic fans than the planning is not happening, right?
Planning for the 2016 Capitol Hill Independence Day Community Picnic to proceed
Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) is grateful to report that a number of individuals have offered to help plan the annual Capitol Hill Independence Day Community Picnic at Cal Anderson Park. The Picnic is a signatureJuly 4 event for Cal Anderson Park and the Capitol Hill community. SPR is optimistic that an enjoyable community event will be able to take place this July 4, though on a lesser scale than in recent years. The traditional time for the picnic has been noon – 4 p.m. at Cal Anderson Park (1635 11th Ave.).
SPR recently reached out to the greater Capitol Hill community to invite community participation in helping to plan the event. The Planning Committee received pledges of donations in addition to volunteers committing time to help with this year’s event. With this support, along with a one-time funding contribution from SPR, the picnic currently has a budget of just over $4,000, an amount sufficient to have a modest, yet enjoyable event with live music.
The planning committee is hopeful there may be other donors willing to contribute, which would allow additional components to be added to this year’s picnic. Anyone interested in contributing to planning efforts, including contributing donations or in-kind resources, or volunteering time on the day of the event, should contact Randy Wiger, Seattle Parks and Recreation at 206-684-0775 or email@example.com. Financial donations will be handled through a 501c3 non-profit partner organization.