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Reader's View: Parks funding needs to keep up with inflation

While most park amenities are free or have a minimal charge, there are ongoing costs to develop and maintain them.

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Like so many Duluthians, I love our parks. We have amazing hiking, biking, and ski trails; playgrounds; sports fields; skating rinks; and undeveloped areas throughout our city. These provide abundant opportunities for residents of all ages to experience the wonders of nature and to be involved in recreational activities.

While most park amenities are free or have a minimal charge, 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 a large amount of 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 whether they support changing the current Parks Fund levy from a fixed funding source of $2.6 million each year to a .0472654% of property tax. The Parks Fund levy overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2011 is a dedicated fund that can only be used to fund parks — not any other city services.

Due to inflation, these $2.6 million buy less and less each year. For example, playground equipment that cost nearly $40,000 in 2011 now costs more than $88,000. The change in the Parks Fund levy to a percentage of property values allows parks funding to adjust to inflationary costs each year.

The recently approved 10-year master plan, “ Essential Spaces: Duluth Parks, Recreation, Open Space & Trails Plan, ” includes data indicating that just 7.9% of our developed parks are in good condition; 51.4% are in fair condition, and 20.7% are considered poor. Our city can do better.

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We must act now to prevent further deterioration and work toward higher-quality parks. Vote “yes” for parks for the present and future generations.

Jenny Peterson

Duluth

The writer is a member of the Duluth Parks and Recreation Commission.

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