Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Regional Parks District?

While the idea of adequately funding the American River Parkway—and other regional parks—resonates with many in the region, the idea of increasing taxes, as called for in a Sacramento Bee editorial from yesterday, on an already over-taxed population does not.

There is a better way to raise money for the American River Parkway and we have outlined it in several news releases and on our website strategy page.

We favor forming a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) for governance and core funding, by the Parkway adjacent cities and the County. The JPA would then create a nonprofit organization which would contract with the JPA for daily management and supplemental fund raising for the Parkway.

An example of the potential is the 85% of needed funding the Central Parks Conservancy provides for Central Park in New York, and the $45 million raised by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“As Sacramento County faces a deep budget crisis, the American River Parkway and other county parks are in deep trouble. Drastic cutbacks and closures are on the table again.

“To avoid slow, steady decline in the county's parks, those who care about them will have to get creative.

“It is time to take the next steps in creating an independent regional park agency – like the East Bay Regional Park District, which was established and funded at the height of the Depression.

“While the county has been able to assemble lands for the parkway and parks, what's been missing in the postwar development of Sacramento's regional park system is a permanent, stable source of funding. And in troubled financial times, what must be avoided is the temptation to jettison those hard-won public lands. County officials should reject a piecemeal surrender of county parks to cities.

“Longtime residents will recall the attempt to create a regional parks district for our region in 1994. Measure B would have assessed homeowners $10 per year for park acquisition, maintenance and capital improvements (raising $5 million a year for 30 years). It went down, 47 percent to 52 percent. Advocates had raised less than $10,000 for that campaign.

“Yet such an option is looking better all the time. Continuing to beg for less than 1 percent of the county's budget each year simply is not working to sustain a quality regional parks system.”