We have a unique opportunity to build a parks system for Olympia’s future that is well maintained, safe and fun while protecting critical habitat and open space. Proposition 1 to create the Olympia Metropolitan Parks District will allow us to grow, preserve and maintain parks and open spaces for future generations.
When we look at our current revenue available for parks and compare it to our current maintenance and operations demands, there just isn’t enough money to meet the need. It is a simple fact that under current conditions we will not be able to keep up and may even need to consider closing some parks in a few years. Not to mention the critical habitat and forest canopy we will continue to lose.
Our beautiful parks need some help! The community has high aspiration for preserving open spaces like LBA Woods, removing the Capitol Center Building (so we can finally complete our vision for a grand civic space!), preserving Percival Landing, adding additional athletic fields AND doing a better job maintaining our existing parks and fields.
As we emerge from the Great Recession, the Olympia City Council has focused on a sustainable budget for the city. We have used a balanced approach of efficiencies, cuts and revenue enhancements. This approach has us on a solid footing into the future for public safety, roads and building repair and maintenance. Securing our parks funding for future generations is the next step.
The Metropolitan Parks District being proposed by the council will ensure that our beautiful parks and fields are well maintained and adequately equipped to handle a 40 percent increase in Olympia’s population over the next 20 years. This measure re-dedicates* voted and non-voted utility taxes to acquisition, after those funding sources helped us keep parks open through the recession. (*It is important to note that all funds dedicated to parks were used for parks, as the voters and previous city councils intended. During the recession some acquisition funds were diverted to parks maintenance and operations to preserve the safety and integrity of the parks system during hard times.)
Success at the ballot box preserves the city’s general fund contribution to parks and provides new revenue for operations, maintenance and development of parks. We can do all of this for less than 30 cents per day — or $9 per month (based on 54 cents of property tax per $1,000 of assessed value) on a $200,000 home.
Over the last nine months, the City Council has worked with a broad coalition of park advocates to bring this amazing opportunity forward to the voters of Olympia. When you receive your ballot this fall, we will have an opportunity to join together and create the parks system we all imagine. Please vote YES for Olympia Parks, and ask your friends to do the same. To find out more visit yesolympiaparks.org.
Jim Cooper is an Olympia City Council member and chairman of the council’s Finance Committee.