Othello Park Alliance (OPA) Accomplishments
In 2006, in response to community concerns about crime and the impact of negative behaviors in Othello Park (aka Othello Playfield), the Department of Parks and Recreation assigned Randy Wiger to train us in self-organization and fundraising. Since then, OPA has become an institution in the Othello neighborhood, providing vital services to the Park which is increasingly safer and viewed more positively by the community. Initially we held small concerts in the park. These events gradually gave birth to a new neighborhood tradition, the Othello Park International Music and Arts Festival, as well as OPA’s involvement with capital development and environmental restoration of the park and community organizing around the Park.
• The Othello Park International Music and Art Festival has become an annual event in Othello Park. 2012’s Festival was held on August 18, and comprised the second day of the Rainier Valley Culture Fest Weekend. The Festival brought music representing many of the cultures who call the Rainier Valley home, a very popular Art Creation Station, booths from local businesses and organizations, great food, and, for the second year, Stanley the camel and his friends. The first Festival, in 2009, brought 600 people to the Park. 1,500 came to the 2011 Festival and we expect our popularity to continue to grow. We were pleased to have the support of the new Station at Othello Park as our 2012 Stage Sponsor as well as counting other businesses, a number of non-profit organizations, and the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods among our sponsors.
• OPA is the lead organization for the Othello Town Center Bridge to Beach Cleanup on April 22. We have applied for and received a $1000 Small Sparks grant from the City and will be working with the MLK Business Association, Cleveland High School’s African Eagles and other neighbors to clean up the Othello Town Center Area – just one block from Othello Park.
• OPA is asked to participate in the Puget Sound Regional Council South Corridor Task Force. Because of our positive reputation in the community, we have been seated at this table, joining approximately 40 jurisdictions and non-profit organizations from Seattle to Tacoma in planning for the region’s implementation of sustainable development around current and future light rail stations.
• OPA and Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation sign and Memorandum of Understanding. OPA commits to presenting the free Othello Park International Music and Art Festival and Parks and Recreation commits to waiving the park rental fee, supplying some equipment and providing publicity.
• OPA awarded2012 Denny Award for Park Activation.
• In order to address the gap between the above plans and committed Levy funds, OPA applied for and received a Large Matching Fund grant from the City of Seattle ($100,000) to be matched by a $150,000 commitment from a private donor for these Othello Park enhancements.
• OPA’s Othello Park International Music and Art Festival partners with the Rainier Valley Heritage Parade and Streets Fair to become the Rainier Valley Culture Fest Weekend, a Seafair-sanctioned event.
• OPA is invited to send a representative to become a member of the Seattle Neighborhood Group Advisory Council.
• OPA Board members are invited to attend the national NeighborWorks conference in Kansas City. At the conference these volunteers and non-profit agency supporters learned more about community organizing and developed plans for our work in 2012.
• OPA applied for and was granted $2,000 from Neighborworks for outreach to the East African Community in Seattle. As a result, we are collaborating with Cleveland High School African Eagles and other programs from East African Community Services to increase the participation of members of Seattle’s East African community in this year’s Othello Park International Music and Art Festival.
• ROPA obtained a $15,000 Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund grant to hire an urban landscape design consultant (SVR Design). Through three community meetings, we obtained broad input from neighbors to create a series of integrated plans for future parks improvements. This Master Plan has since been used to advocate for funding and citizen involvement in these projects over the years, including a proposed project currently under consideration by the Department of Neighborhoods and the Southeast District Council.
• Through ROPA, OPA applied for over $1 million in Parks Levy Opportunity Fund grants for Othello Park improvements. Although these grants were not funded, OPA’s continuing advocacy has greatly increased our visibility as a steward of this Park and positive influence in the Othello community.
• Actively supported a University of Washington Master’s Level Landscape Architecture student in the development of a plan for Othello Park. OPA members organized several community meetings and attended meetings of community groups across cultures and languages to gather input from neighbors concerning future plans for Othello Park.
• OPA members were key participants in the Parks Department’s neighborhood meetings to determine the use of over $200,000 in Parks Levy funds designated for Safety and Lighting improvements in Othello Park. This process was informed by previously gathered input and plans that were developed by ROPA as well as the work spearheaded by the University of Washington graduate student. OPA members actively recruited neighbors to these meetings, as well as participating in them. OPA representatives were also involved in detailed negotiations concerning lighting plans for the Park. The resulting plan addressed not only safety and lighting, but the constructions of a stage, a zip line and other enhancements beyond what was contemplated to be paid for by Levy monies.
• OPA obtained a $10,000 King County grant for environmental restoration on the hillside in Othello Park. This project used sustainable and environmentally-friendly methods (goats!) to remove non-native species. The area was then replanted with native plant species which will improve the aesthetics and safety of this part of the Park.
OPA used this environmental restoration project as an opportunity for youth involvement through King County’s Vocational Employment Service Training (VEST). Through this program, we created opportunities for at-risk youth in the Juvenile Justice system to affirm their worth, to reconnect and to be of service to their community.
• OPA members took the lead in joining with other Othello neighborhood parks friends groups to form the Ribbon of Parks Association (ROPA). Through that organization we took leadership in planning a series of future improvements in Van Asselt, John C. Little, and Othello Parks as well as in connector routes, signage, artwork, street trees, and other amenities to enhance citizen enjoyment of our parks and their surroundings.