A letter to the editor by CCUA Executive Director, Billy Polansky, (originally printed in The Missourian)
This Tuesday, Nov. 3 is Election Day, and I strongly encourage all Columbia residents to vote “Yes” to renew the one-eighth-cent park sales tax. The parks system here in Columbia is something that defines us. We have all made memories in Columbia’s parks — whether it is a wedding at the Riechmann Pavilion at Stephens Lake Park, riding bikes on the MKT Trail, basketball at the ARC, the Heritage Festival at Nifong Park, or spending time with your children on the playground at one of the dozens of neighborhood parks across the city. We are fortunate to have access to these great spaces that enrich our lives. Our parks provide us with space that brings people together to go fishing, let our dogs run, or have a birthday party. I can’t imagine life in Columbia without all of the great parks. The city is even beginning to show an interest in local foods, community gardening and urban agriculture.
The future of our city’s green spaces could feed and educate the community with community gardens, demonstration plots and fruit orchards. Our community is growing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2010 and 2014, Columbia’s total population added 8,071 people; that is a 7.4 percent increase (compare that to the national growth rate of 3.3 percent). As Columbia grows, we will need more park land and to improve the parks currently in use. That growth is exactly why we need to renew the park tax. All of the revenue generated from this tax is the city’s main source of funding for renovation, maintenance and acquisition of park land. Without this tax, picnic shelters and ball fields could not be renovated, new properties could not be acquired and new playgrounds could not be built. Best of all, voting “Yes” will not increase the current tax rate. We have been paying for this tax and benefiting from the revenue since 2000. Since 2000, the park sales tax has improved our community tremendously. Stephens Lake Park, Gans Creek Recreation Area, numerous neighborhood parks, restrooms, picnic pavilions, swimming pools and ball fields — all available to you and your family because of this tax. Your vote can help secure the future of our city’s parks, trails and gardens. Even though the Tuesday’s ballot only has this one item, it is an important one. Please, make sure you get out and vote “Yes” this Tuesday.