Pullman Parks and Facilities is gearing up for its largest upgrades ever, with plans to invest more than $1 million in its parks and recreational spaces. After years of requests from residents for improved parks, the director of Parks and Facilities, Kurt Dahmen, knew something had to be done. However, upgrading Pullman’s recreational spaces posed a challenge due to rising equipment costs and the COVID-19 pandemic. But thanks to a couple of bonds and persistence, major improvements are slated for this year, including new playground equipment, picnic shelters, bathrooms, and more.
Dahmen revealed that the need for change became apparent after a resident told him that their family traveled to Moscow for a walk in the park. In addition, representatives from playground companies labeled some of Pullman's parks as "unique," "iconic," and "not compliant" with current playground equipment standards. Though Parks and Facilities recognized the need for park upgrades, funding has always been an issue, and the agency has only managed to make small equipment improvements over the years to ensure user safety.
Dahmen, who has been with Parks and Facilities for 23 years, said he hasn't seen upgrades of this magnitude before. The last time the agency made significant improvements was in the early 2000s when it built Terre View Park and Pullman's first Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) playground in September 2022. But nothing compares to the current operation.
Funding for the park upgrades came from two Pullman bonds, a metropolitan parks district, and project reshuffling. The Pullman City Council passed two bonds in 2018 to purchase a new city hall and recreation center, land for a potential third fire station, and construction of an event center at Lawson Gardens. Although the city built and renovated the city hall and recreation center, equipment prices began to rise over time. According to past reporting, construction material costs have almost doubled compared to three years ago.
Parks and Facilities presented the design for the event center in 2021, but the council rejected all bids because the prices were too high. The agency rescoped the project and returned a year later, but prices continued to climb. Rather than wait for the costs to plateau, the council scrapped the event center project but still allocated funds to Parks and Facilities. The agency and the council decided to use the money to improve parks instead.
Dahmen said the city is attempting to reduce waste and is aware that Pullman residents may be attached to the old playground equipment. Any viable equipment can be purchased from the City of Pullman surplus site. "Parks enhance the quality of life for everyone in the community," said Dahmen. "We're just excited we can do this."