Like so many other Duluthians, I love our parks. We have amazing hiking, biking and skiing trails; playgrounds; sports field; skating rinks; and undeveloped areas throughout our city. These provide many opportunities for residents of all ages to experience the wonders of nature and participate in recreational activities.
While most park amenities are free or at minimal cost, there are ongoing costs to develop and maintain them. This cost is primarily borne by the city, specifically the Duluth Parks and Recreation Department, through local taxes. As you can imagine, it takes significant funding to maintain over 9,000 acres of green space, including 162 parks and 353 miles of trails.
In the upcoming election, Duluth residents are being asked if they support changing the current Parks Fund levy from a fixed funding source of $2.6 million per year to 0.0472654% of the property tax. The Parks Fund Tax passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2011 is a dedicated fund that can only be used to fund parks – not other city services.
Due to inflation, that $2.6 million buys less and less every year. For example, playground equipment that cost nearly $40,000 in 2011 now costs over $88,000. Changing the Parks Fund fee to a percentage of property value allows parks funding to adjust to inflationary costs each year.
The recently approved ten-year master plan, “
» includes data indicating that only 7.9% of our serviced parks are in good condition; 51.4% are in fair condition and 20.7% are considered poor. Our city can do better.
We must act now to prevent further deterioration and work towards better quality parks. Vote “yes” for parks for present and future generations.
The author is a member of the Duluth Parks and Recreation Commission.
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