‘Yes’ for Grand Rapids Parks Tax Proposal a Win for All

Aliana Garcia plays on the playground at Lincoln Park in Grand Rapids on Thursday, September 5, 2013. (MLive.com File Photo)

Voters next week will decide whether to approve a property tax assessment to pay for fixes to Grand Rapids’ expansive neighborhood parks system. The parks have faced a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall for years.

On Nov. 5 there is an important vote in Grand Rapids. On that day, the citizens of Grand Rapids can choose to dedicate funds to be set aside, only to be spent on neighborhood parks, pools, and playgrounds.

Those dollars are needed as our park system is in need of significant reinvestment. Right now 91 percent of current City parks are rated a “C” for maintenance (on a scale of A-D) and it is projected that 50 percent of parks will fall to a “D” without additional resources to repair and make improvements.

As the board of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, we have witnessed the thousands of residents from across the city who have volunteered to help our parks; painting buildings, planting trees, weeding playgrounds, repairing broken benches, picking up trash, and spreading playground surfacing over the past few years.

The corporate and philanthropic community has also contributed immensely to keep the city’s public pools open and stepped forward with funding to match their concerns about city green spaces. People care about parks, but there is a lot more that needs to be done.

There’s a generation of kids growing up in our city today that only know broken playground equipment, weedy baseball fields, missing tennis nets, uneven turf fields, cracked basketball courts, and closed pools. They won’t have the same stories when they get older about playing baseball at Lincoln, ice skating at Richmond, cooling off at the wading pool at Wilcox, or playing pick-up games of basketball at MLK.

Citizens have helped create a vision for the future of parks in our city including, the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Parks in 2007, Green Grand Rapids in 2009, the Parks and Recreation Master Plan in 2010, and numerous neighborhood planning efforts.

The community has rallied in the past several years to volunteer in parks, give money to save the pools, and donate to purchase new equipment.

Citizen engagement is a key element of creating great parks, and dedicated funding for parks is a critical next step to developing parks we can all be proud of in all our neighborhoods.

On Nov. 5, citizens in Grand Rapids will have the opportunity to vote to keep parks, pools, and playgrounds from experiencing more cuts, and keep them moving in a positive direction.

Let’s use the partnerships, energy, creative problem solving, and neighborhood initiative that has helped us weather a decade of underfunded parks to begin rebuilding, reinvesting, and leveraging new resources.

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