Parks and Recreation Finance
This page provides a list of resources and documents for local governments in Washington State related to financing park and recreation services, including grants, concessions, gifts/donations, and more.
Cities and/or counties may form several types of park and recreation districts, including park and recreation districts, park and recreation service areas, and metropolitan park districts, which may levy property taxes, issue bonds, and generate other revenues for park purposes. For more information, see our page Comparison of Recreation Districts.
Bonds and Levies
Local governments may issue bonds or levy property taxes to fund parks and recreation. These options typically require voter approval and often (but not always) require a 60% majority and minimum levels of voter turnout (validation).
For more information, refer to MRSC's City Revenue Guide, County Revenue Guide, and Comparison of Recreation Districts.
MRSC’s Local Ballot Measure Database tracks how city, county, and special purpose district ballot measures have fared in Washington State since November 2011, including measures supporting parks and recreation.
State Grant Programs
The State of Washington provides funding for a variety of park and recreation programs.
- The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) offers a number of Grant Programs. Its webpage allows user to filter funding based on program focus, eligible applicants, due dates, and grant limits.
- The Washington Fund Directory, created by the Washington State Treasurer's Office, provides a centralized online database listing state grants and loans to local governments, nonprofits, tribes, and other entities. There are listings for many different project types including recreation, transportation, housing, environment, infrastructure, and more.
Some local agencies are eligible for reduced matches for the RCO Youth Athletic Facilities and Washington Wildlife and Recreation programs. Eligible agencies must meet one of the following criteria: communities in need, counties in need, underserved populations, or federal disaster areas. For more information, see the RCO's Match Reduction page.
Finance Administration and Planning
Below are samples of strategic and/or long-term planning related to parks and recreation:
- King County Parks and Recreation Business Plan (2002) — Re-shaped the way the agency did business, emphasizing the formation of community and corporate partnerships/sponsorships and reducing the division's financial dependence on the King County's general fund.
- Issaquah Parks Strategic Plan (2018) — Provides a broad vision for a city-wide system, while also identifying specific strategic projects to help achieve that vision. The city created public-facing storyboards to summarize and report on citizen engagement efforts related to building the strategic plan.
- Monroe Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan (2022) — Provides 20-year, strategic guidance for the entire park and recreation system, identifies a 6-year funding plan, and addresses the requirements of the Growth Management Act (GMA) and the Recreation and Conservation Office.
- Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation Plan (2022) — Charts a course for the next six years and includes new goals for increasing equity, inclusion and belonging in parks and services, and commits the department to pursuing climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
- Pierce County Strategic Plan (2020) — Matches the needs for park and trail assets with available county, state and federal funding sources and provides a blueprint to meet needs and accomplish many projects in the upcoming decade.
- Seattle Parks and Recreation Strategic Action Plan (2020) — Identifies emerging issues and policy questions relating to the division’s current strengths, challenges, and opportunities to ensure the most efficient and effective use of public tax dollars. Also includes information on the department’s Pathway to Equity program.
- Vancouver/Clark County Parks and Recreation Department Organizational Assessment (2013) —Evaluates the programs, staffing, organizational and management structure of the VCPRD and helps it make decisions about its future, including whether or not to continue operating jointly as a city‐county agency.
Local governments may sign concession agreements with vendors to conduct business within parks (such as selling food and beverages or renting equipment) and charge the vendors a concession fee. Below are selected examples of concession/beverage requests for proposals (RFPs) and requests for qualifications (RFQs).
- Edmonds Municipal Code Ch. 4.04 — Covers concession agreements on public property or city right-of-way.
- Concessions in Parks (2022)
- Ephrata RFP for Beverage/Concessions (2015)
- Kirkland RFP for Food and Beverage Concessions in Parks (2021)
- Lakewood RFP for Concessionaire for Lakewood Parks (2019)
- Longview RFP for Food and Beverage Services at Lake Sacajawea Park (2016)
- Olympia RFP for Artesian Commons Concessions (2014)
- Richland Park Concessionaires (2022)
- Seattle RFP for Golden Gardens Park Food Concessions (2022)
- Vancouver Municipal Code Sec. 15.08.100 — Covers concession agreements
- Mobile Food Vending — Offers a thorough overview of approvals/permit required for mobile food vendors in public plazas and at special events.
Gifts and Donations
Local governments, including park agencies, may raise funds through private gifts, donations, and bequests. Below are examples of some codes and policies related to gifts and donations.
Sample General Gift Policies
- Auburn Municipal Code Sec. 3.04.270 - 3.04.280 — Details the landscaping and community beautification and gift cumulative reserve fund.
- Kirkland Sharing Program — Allows a donor to donate a park bench or table.
- Olympia Municipal Code Ch. 3.56 — Authorizes the city manager to collect donations up to $10,000 in value, or decline donations if these are not consistent with city policies.
- Port Townsend Municipal Code Ch. 3.42 — Authorizes the city manager to collect donations up to $5,000 in value but requires city council approve donations over this amount.
- Puyallup Municipal Code Ch. 3.64 — Authorizes the city manager to collect donations to the Puyallup Fund up to $500 in value but requires city council approve donations over this amount.
- Sequim Municipal Code Ch. 3.74 — Authorizes the city manager to collect monetary donations and outlines specific procedures for approving both monetary and nonmonetary donations.
- SeaTac Municipal Code Ch. 2.85 — Authorizes the city manager to collect donations up to $500 (over $500 requires city council approval). The city manager’s designee may accept nonmonetary donations under $25.
Sample Park Policies and Gifting Opportunities, Including Memorials
- Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department Donations — Includes existing programs accepting donations, downloadable application, and link to the department’s donation policy.
- Issaquah Scholarship Fund — Allows the Parks & Community Services Department to provide youths and teen scholarships for programming.
- King County Parks: Marymoor Pet Garden Request for Memorial
- Mercer Island Make a Donation
- Newcastle Park Memorials and Donations
- Newcastle Resolution No. 2014-588 (2014) — Covers the parks donation and memorial policy.
- Pierce County Park and Recreation Donations — Donation programs include commemorative benches, endowment fund, holiday lights, summer camp, and companionship program for school-age individuals with disabilities and their friends/family.
- Sequim Donations and Gifting — Includes list of specific items that may be gifted or donated
- Snohomish County Assistance Programs — Includes youth & family activities sponsorship program, dedications, and equipment donations
Sample Out-of-State Memorial Programs
- Fort Collins, CO Living Tribute – Tree program to pay tribute to persons living or dead. Site provide regulations and a list of suggested trees.
- San Jose, CA Monument Policy (2010) – Policy related to the installation of permanent outdoor Monuments on city property to provide the city’s commemoration of persons or events of note, or to otherwise convey the city’s position on various topics (referred to as “Government Speech”).
Below are some examples of local park foundations.
- Anacortes Parks Foundation
- Clark County Parks Foundation
- Seattle Parks Foundation
- Spokane Parks Foundation
- Tacoma Greater Metro Parks Foundation
- PARC Foundation of Thurston County
- Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation
- Trust for Public Land Action Fund — Nationwide organization providing strategic, organizational, fundraising, and financial assistance for state and local ballot measure campaigns and legislative advocacy
- Gift of Public Funds — Provides an overview of the Gift of Public Funds Doctrine and how it applies to the local and state governments
- MRSC Insight blogs written on donations, municipal giving and the gift of public funds prohibition.