You remember when I wrote that feature story about how a bunch of park purists calling themselves the Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks were trying to halt plans to develop a performing arts center on Mercerdale Park? An arts center that would replace a defunct recycling center that had been languishing in the park for years? An arts center that would complement the park's beauty with its gorgeous design and actually draw community members into the park with its excellent programming? An arts center that would house the flailing but culturally vital children's theater, Youth Theatre Northwest, and also many other arts institutions? Well, those park purists failed today.
From the folks at Support Mercer Island Parks and Arts:
The deadline for filing the petitions to put the [Concerned Citizens for Mercer Island Parks] initiative on the ballot has passed with no petitions filed. Support Mercer Island Parks and Arts is thankful the voters of Mercer Island thoughtfully considered the issues and overwhelmingly declined to sign the petition including an unprecedented number of residents that rescinded their initial support of the petition.
Everyone on Mercer Island loves our parks and wants to preserve them. The defeat of this petition clearly demonstrates that Islanders believe parks in different locations can add value to our community in different ways. Mercer Island voters sent a clear message that our parks should be for all and that arts and parks can successfully work together.
Robynne Parkinson, a lawyer who volunteers for Support MI Parks and Arts, said via e-mail that a number of people un-signed the petition after learning more about CCMIP and MICA's plans by sending a letter to the city clerk. "At last count, there were over a hundred 'un-sign' letters, which is unprecedented," she said.
I left a message with Ira Appelman, head of the CCMIP, asking for comment. I'll update this post if I hear back from him.
Manuel Cawaling, executive director for Youth Theatre Northwest, told me by phone that he feels relieved. For him, the fact that the Concerned Citizens were unable to get 3,000 people to sign the Protect our Parks petition clearly confirms the position most Islanders hold. "We learned what we knew throughout the process," Cawaling said, "Which is that the people of Mercer Island support the arts."
Next on the agenda: MICA is currently in the middle of a SEPA review. After that, the organization will secure a lease from the city, and then they can continue with construction. "We're a lot more attractive to funders now that there's more certainty," Cawaling said. "Sure makes the summer look much more exciting."