Key Pen Parks staff and supporters have an extra spring in our steps as we look forward to some exciting times in 2016. Funds awarded to the parks in 2015 mean we are able to move forward with some long-anticipated modifications to the vibrant Volunteer Park and the birth of a brand-new recreation destination: Gateway Park.

Thanks to a Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office Youth Athletic Facilities grant of $250,000, along with assistance from Peninsula Light, the KP Little League and Cross Engineers, we will have new LED field lights installed late this summer at all three baseball fields at Volunteer Park.

We also received a $500,000 matching grant from our state Legislature as a part of its 2015-17 capital budget. This money allows us to jump-start phase one of the construction of Gateway Park, including a new playground, picnic shelter and restrooms, among other things. We hope to have a groundbreaking ceremony at our second annual Fourth of July Community Hot Dog Social this year.

In the meantime, Key Pen Parks is busy planning for one of its favorite springtime activities: Parks Appreciation Day, Saturday, April 23, 9 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. Locations this year include Home Park and especially 360 Trails and the Rocky Creek Conservation Area.

We hope to see many of our great Key Peninsula neighbors come out with gloves, loppers, rakes and smiles and help us get our parks ready for the busy season ahead. This is a great opportunity for families and friends to spend just a couple of hours doing something to celebrate Earth Day or Arbor Day, and to make our parks a better place to enjoy. There is no need to sign up, just show up!

Tasks include raking and clearing trails, pulling invasive species, pruning growth, digging up rootballs and removing brush. Afterward, a chili dog lunch will be held for volunteers at Gateway Park.

The beautiful state of Washington has shown that the Key Peninsula is a community worth investing in, so we hope our residents will offer an investment in return: a donation to the Key Peninsula Parks and Recreation Foundation, or an investment of a little time Saturday, April 23. Please join us!

Scott Gallacher is the executive director of Key Pen Parks.