Planning for Key Center Path Gets Health Department Funding

Participatory budgeting gave the community a direct voice in the decision.


Preliminary planning is underway for a roadside path to connect Key Center and the Red Barn Youth Center at the corner of the Key Peninsula Highway and 84th Street NW, a distance of about 500 yards.

Thanks to a grant from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, the necessary steps — civil engineering with preliminary drawings and easement approval — to build the path should be completed by the end of the year.

“We’ll have a shovel-ready project and then we will find the funding to pay for it,” said Key Peninsula Community Council director Chuck West, who spearheaded the request.

“One of my pet peeves has been pedestrian safety,” West said. “This is a small bite, but it will let people see what is possible and create a vision for a longer bike and walking path along the KP Highway.” He said the path could also offer safe access between elders at The Mustard Seed Village and kids at the Red Barn for future collaboration.

The $10,000 grant was part of flexible funding the health department had available this year for projects in each of six Pierce County Communities of Focus. Agencies and nonprofits working on the Key Peninsula learned about it in June. Recipients had to identify a nonprofit or agency to accept funds and spend the money by the end of the year to qualify.

Four organizations pitched their proposals July 27 to a packed room at the Crandall Center in a meeting moderated by Daniel Burdsall, Communities of Focus liaison.

Two proposals came from the KP Community Council — one for preliminary roadside path planning and the other for a community park near the water tower above Key Center, near the Crandall Center on 154th Avenue Court NW. The Longbranch Improvement Club requested funding to improve and expand its community garden. Food Backpacks 4 Kids and the Minter Elementary School PTA pitched a family fun fair with live entertainment to bring Key Peninsula families together. The KP Cooperative Preschool asked for funding — much less than the $10,000 allowed — to provide childcare and supplies so parents and guardians could meet monthly to share ideas and expertise.

Selecting the winning proposal used participatory budgeting: engaging the community in the decision. “This is a chance to engage with the community about all the topics that are important,” said Communities of Focus Coordinator Marcy Boulet. “It is a way to get more people involved in the civic process. It increases self-efficacy. Engaged people are healthier.”

Ballots were distributed in August. Voters ranked the proposals from one to five so that an alternative project could be chosen if the first project did not meet the grant requirements.

A total of 490 votes were recorded and the initial results were announced Sept 1.

The Key Center Park proposal received the highest ranking, but Kathy Lyons and Mark Cockerill, who made the proposal, were informed just as the voting closed that the Peninsula Light Co., which owns the ¾ acre site, would not approve public use of the land. Although there was initial enthusiasm, Lyons said, concern about liability led to the board’s final decision.

Pierce County Councilmember Robyn Denson (D-7th) worked closely with the health department during the whole process. “No one has done it this way before,” she said.

Denson said the short timeline for proposals and the need to spend the funds by year-end made this grant process challenging but that she is enthusiastic about participatory budgeting.

“All in all it worked really well and was engaging and fun for the Key Peninsula community,” she said. “One thing we would do differently is to start a lot earlier so there is more opportunity for public engagement and so projects have more time to be executed before an end-of-year deadline. That being said, I’m very proud of the community for getting this done.”

In 2017, TPCHD identified communities of focus based on nine data points: life expectancy, poverty, unemployment, high school graduation, frequency of mental distress, smoking, obesity, diabetes and adverse childhood experiences. It found 14 zip codes with the worst outcomes and fewest opportunities to improve them. The Key Peninsula, along with East Tacoma and Springbrook, partnered with the health department that year. White River, South Tacoma and Parkland joined in 2018.

Click for more information on Communities in Focus.