City millage proposal for parks and pools earns support


City of Grand Rapids voters will find a millage proposal on the Nov. 5 ballot, a request that would raise taxes by 0.98 mills (approximately $3.66 per month to the average homeowner) for the next seven years. The Business Journal finds the issue compelling for a comment of support, especially given the sustained efforts of business community members to assist in basic maintenance of these green spaces throughout the city.

In the years during and since the Great Recession, the budget of every governmental unit has been sorely depleted, affecting even safety services such as fire and police. The city has survived on bare minimums and been a model of proactive leadership in budgeting into the future. Park maintenance has been justifiably lower on any funding priority list. Business leaders like Peter Wege, Ed De Vries of De Vries Companies and Mike VanGessel of Rockford Construction are just a few who have stepped forward with funding to match their concerns about city green spaces. The corporate community also has contributed to keep the city’s public pools open.

The Business Journal notes the effort to put the proposal on the ballot was the work of grass-roots citizens, including architect Mark Miller, who is chairing citizen effort Neighbors for Parks, Pools and Playgrounds.

In a city that holds top rank in achieving environmental awards, the continuing deterioration of parks and pools is, at the least, an embarrassment and, at worst, a danger to children. National Recreation and Parks Association ratings of city parks show 91 percent are a level C (on a system of A-D); even worse, without a sustainable funding source, 50 percent will fall to level D.

In his Frame Works column in the upcoming November issue of sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine, Miller shares: “The park system is saddled with a backlog of deferred maintenance that continues to grow. In an attempt to manage this burgeoning backlog, park workers often have no choice but to remove broken play structures rather than repair them.”

Parks are a welcome respite for residents and visitors alike and assure green space amidst “built” environments and ribbons of cement.

The city has established a specific fund for the tax money, giving residents the opportunity to monitor expenditures, and city leaders’ pledge to provide the funds to all 73 city parks and the picnic shelters, baseball and soccer fields and basketball courts offering exercise and participation.

It is indeed up to community members to help restore these treasures of green space, before the weeds of neglect rule.

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