Wreck and parks

Carroll County: Commissioners tout support of parks, but their slashing of the budget says otherwise.

June 17, 1999

WHAT IS IT about public parks that makes them such an easy mark for budget cuts? These places of respite and recreation have a broad constituency. Yet most parks and recreation users don't visit frequently, which might explain why they fail to fight for them like they do for a school.

Area recreation councils are left to provide the only political influence to scrap for government funding -- and are typically told to raise their fees if they want more money.

Carroll County's decision to slash spending on parkland acquisition and construction in the next two years, after earlier abolishing its parks department, should provoke citizens to demand more resources for these amenities.

When the new county commissioners reorganized the staff structure this year, they pointedly eliminated the parks department and the environmental services bureau, transferring the responsibilities to other departments.

Recently, the commissioners cut the county's share of capital spending for park projects from 50 percent to 35 percent. And next fiscal year, the commissioners warn, capital funding for parks and recreation will drop by one-third again.

State grants and impact fees paid by homebuilders will provide the main sources of support.

These same county commissioners increased taxpayer spending to pay farmers to keep farming their land. Preserving such open space is important. But what about parks, playing fields and other recreation facilities? Are they not a higher level of public open space?

The previous board of commissioners killed a planned $350,000 Westminster park because the county would have had to pay $20,000 as its share of the largely state- and federal-funded park. The current commissioners seem headed in the same direction, ignoring the growing need for recreation in this growing county.

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