Metroparks of the Toledo Area provide Lucas County residents with clean, safe, natural open space every day, without an admission charge. The parks are potent promoters of public health, economic development, and environmental protection. County voters who appreciate all that the Metroparks mean to this community will vote YES on Issue 21 to keep the park system strong.
The Metroparks proposal on this fall’s county ballot asks voters to approve a 0.9-mill, 10-year property tax to support the parks, replacing an expiring 0.3-mill levy. The new tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home in the county $27.56 a year — less than eight cents a day.
Revenue from the current tax was earmarked for land acquisition. Metroparks officials say they will use money from the new tax to preserve the 11,000 acres the system manages; maintain operations, facilities, and playgrounds at the nine existing parks; develop parkland; expand ranger patrols, and enhance programs in outdoor education for park users, including 60,000 students. The Metroparks system also includes the Toledo Botanical Garden and three greenway trails.
Passage of Issue 21 would enable the Metroparks system to continue its progress on new parks projects — notably the Middlegrounds in downtown Toledo, but also a greenway that will connect the Secor and Oak Openings parks, the Fallen Timbers battlefield in Maumee, the Blue Creek conservation area in Whitehouse, Keil Farm in Toledo, Howard Farms in Jerusalem Township, and Pearson North.
The new tax would raise about $7.1 million a year, nearly half of the Metroparks’ annual operating budget. Parks officials argue plausibly that they need the modest tax increase to offset losses in federal and state aid, declining local property values, and reduced private support, all products of the Great Recession.
The Metroparks have reduced their work force, even as use of the parks has continued to increase. Rejection of the tax would require, at the least, cutbacks in parks maintenance and repair.
The parks are on track to attract nearly 3 million visitors this year; more than two-thirds of Lucas County residents use a Metropark between four and 11 times a year. The parks’ popular activities include walking, running, and cycling on trails, picnicking and other family outings, fishing and boating, horseback riding, bird-watching, studying and photographing nature, and simply enjoying the scenery.
But county residents who never visit the Metroparks still benefit from them. The parks’ conservation activities curb air and water pollution in this region, and preserve vital wildlife habitats. The parks system maintains several of the area’s most important historical sites.
The parks make Lucas County more attractive to potential employers and residents, strengthening property values. They promote travel and tourism in the area. And by providing a safe, appealing place for people to exercise, the parks help control local health-care costs.
Adoption of Issue 21 is a sound investment in this region’s present and future quality of life. It deserves a YES vote.