Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor | PenMet is part of what makes Gig Harbor great

Posted on April 8th, 2024 By: Heather Maher

As a mom, constituent, and PenMet Parks district taxpayer, I feel compelled to stand up against the recent comments directed at our local parks department leadership.

For the past three years I have jumped in with both feet with the goal of learning about the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks Department: how the organization is operated, its mission, functions, and goals, and its inner financial workings. I, too, wanted to know where my family’s tax dollars were going. So, I did my homework.

I have attended countless PenMet Board meetings in person over the past three years. I have read the entirety of the PenMet Parks PROs Plan, as well as their budget books and annual reports, all of which anyone can read anytime on PenMet Parks’ website. It is never a secret how PenMet Parks spends its money — all records are posted for anyone to access at any time.

My family is also personally active in PenMet programs. Through summer camps, the Family Dance events, picnics at the Narrows and Bella Bella beaches, and walking the trail at Sehmel Park, my family directly experiences the high level of financial integrity and program excellence that PenMet stands for.

Many members of PenMet Parks’ leadership have families of their own, and I am thankful that they are keenly aware of the financial demands of living in our area. Right in the first few pages of the 2024 Summer Camps and Events guide, you’ll find information on how families can access financial aid to help afford programs. And now, in-district residents (those of us paying taxes to PenMet Parks) get priority registration for programs!

Plus, families can now use a new system to stagger payments for summer camps. This has already been a tremendous help to my family; my family’s wallet breathed a sigh of relief during camp registration for both of my kids this past week.

Regarding paying for large projects, I have learned that projects like the Community Recreation Center (CRC) that PenMet Parks is building is not funded on taxpayer dollars alone. These projects happen through a combination of government grants, such as the one awarded to PenMet Parks by our state legislature last summer, and also private donations.

What unites Gig Harbor residents is our love for our beautiful town. And our beautiful town would not be the place it is without PenMet Parks. What a gift it is that our children are growing up in an area where they can play at clean, safe beaches and playgrounds. Imagine if we couldn’t access our beautiful waterfront areas?

We should also feel proud that programs for our teens and Senior citizens have now become signature focuses for PenMet Parks. Teen program hours increased by 974% in the past year, and program hours for seniors is up by 561%. My own parents, who also live in Gig Harbor, are entering their later years. Our seniors absolutely deserve places and organizations that provide opportunities for fullness of life for them too.

As a taxpayer, I am proud to say that THIS is where my tax dollars are going: supporting the quality of life for Gig Harbor families and residents of all ages, caring for and preserving our natural areas, and upholding Gig Harbor values as our community continues to grow. My family thanks PenMet Parks’ leadership for how seriously they take their roles in our community, especially for transparency with financial stewardship of our district. I have seen the inner workings of PenMet Parks and have no concerns, only thanks, for our parks’ leaders.

Heather Maher

Gig Harbor

Heather Maher

Gig Harbor Now accepts signed letters to the editor of up to about 800 words. Submit them on the Contact form by selecting “Letter to the Editor” from the Purpose dropdown.