Fresno for Parks Leads Grassroots Effort to Let Voters Decide on a November Ballot Measure
By Natasha Biasell
Residents are gathering signatures to ensure November’s general election ballot includes a measure that asks voters to choose a 3/8-cent sales tax to fund quality parks. Fresno for Parks, a diverse group of citizens, community leaders, non-profits and park advocates held a rally on April 4 to announce the effort at Lafayette Park.
“Our local parks are an important part of making our community a desirable place to live, work and raise a family,” said Larry Powell, former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools and Board Member with the Central Valley Community Foundation.
Fresno for Parks also submitted the initiative to the city clerk that day. Proponents say the local funding measure would raise approximately $37.5 million annually, which would cost an average of $39 per household.
The initiative also includes strong provisions for fiscal accountability and citizen oversight, which will ensure the funding raised through the measure will only be spent on the intended purposes and stays local. Funds cannot be taken by the state or repurposed for other uses.
“This initiative provides a guaranteed, local funding source for Fresno’s parks that will improve the health of our community in a tangible way,” said Powell. “It is time that we come together to support this solution that will ensure we all have access to clean, safe neighborhood parks.”
The initiative also includes a recreational and job training component, offering after-school programs for children and at-risk youth, as well as expanding access to arts and culture programs.
“I stand with Fresno for Parks for cleaner, newer, safer parks, as well as vital sports, recreation, and arts programs that will help keep kids on a safe path to success,” said Pastor DJ Criner of Saint Rest Baptist Church.
Fresno for Parks was formed in response to recent studies of large U.S. cities that ranked Fresno 90th out of 100 cities in 2017 and the worst in the country from 2013 t0 2015. The ParkScore studies, commissioned by the Trust for Public Land, rank cities based on total land dedicated to parks, how much the city spends on parks per capita and how many people live within walking distance to a park. Fresno residents and community leaders began to organize for a solution, and after input from thousands of residents, the city adopted a Parks Master Plan in January 2018.
Benefits of the proposed initiative include bringing parks and recreation centers up to current health and safety standards, and updating and maintaining quality parks, walking trails and landscaping to invest in Fresno and increase property values. Another main objective of the measure is to improve access to parks for all Fresnans by creating new parks in areas where they are needed most.
“More than three decades ago, my parents helped oversee the development of Woodward Park as a new forest amidst a rapidly growing city, and my father was also a key leader in developing the Eaton Trail,” said Joan Eaton, former owner of Guarantee Real Estate. “Long before my family, Fresno leaders formed a Park Commission in 1909 because they understood our community’s strength is deeply rooted in quality of life. My family’s business roots are in real estate, and we know that investing in our parks helps strengthen our neighborhoods and increase property values, and will improve our city in a multitude of ways, now and for future generations.”
For more information on Fresno for Parks and to get involved, please visit FresnoForParks.com or call 559-598-7057.