Ottawa County voters soon will receive their absentee ballots for the Aug. 2 election. They’ll be asked to vote on renewing the existing county parks millage, and to restore it from the current 0.31-mill to the original 0.33-mill.
The dedicated millage provides about 90 percent of what it takes to operate the park system. No general funds are received from the county.
A “yes” vote means 10 more years of funding for our excellent county park system, one of the best in Michigan. Currently the average Ottawa County homeowner pays about $24 a year; this renewal would raise it to about $25. That’s about $2.08 per month. You can’t buy much with $2.08 these days — not even a cup of coffee — unless you’re an average homeowner in Ottawa County.
Then, for $2.08 a month, you can get all these things: Over 100 miles of walking trails; a beautiful nature education center that thousands of people went through last year, where our schoolchildren learn about the natural world and visitors learn about some of the wonderful things our county has to offer; access to thousands of acres of parks and public outdoor space (no matter where in the county you live, there’s a park close to you); recreation amenities that attract a qualified workforce to want to live here; higher property values and quality of life; places to go with your dog; a place to ride your mountain bike; lots of places to go hiking and bird-watching; a first-class disc golf course; greenway trails and bike paths for safe, healthy alternative ways to travel instead of driving; your choice of many beautiful and historic buildings and outdoor venues to celebrate the big events in your lives, such as graduations and reunions, weddings and baby showers, or to host business meetings; improvements in water quality in our rivers; habitat for rare plants, birds and animals; six lakeshore parks that help bring visitors and tourism dollars to the county; and summer jobs for 80 or more young people.
For 20 years, the people of Ottawa County have overwhelmingly supported the development and operation of the county parks system with their $2 a month. This is the minimum it takes to operate and maintain a high-quality park system we can continue to be proud of.
There are no extravagances, believe me. I have been to park systems all over the U.S., and many of them have more budget and more staff for one single park than we do for our entire county. This department runs as lean as possible, and there are many more things they really wanted to do that have been deferred or eliminated due to budget cuts and constraints.
Parks staff have also stretched and leveraged those millage dollars very effectively to get significant grants and donations, but you can’t get those without matching funds. $2.08 a month! I think that’s a pretty good deal.
Please say “yes” to parks. For more information, go to www.yes2parks.org or Ottawa County Parks 2016 Millage Renewal on Facebook.
Bobbi Jones Sabine