Letter at Length

Protect city parks from budget cuts

The next time you stroll through beautiful Lithia Park or Ashland's other well-maintained city parks, take a mental picture of what you see, because the luster on Ashland's crown jewels will quickly fade if at least one member of the city of Ashland's Budget Committee has her way during the next funding cycle.

As an Ashland parks and recreation commissioner, it is my duty to alert fellow residents of threats to our city parks, which are a tremendous source of civic pride and, as one city councilor recently put it, "what makes Ashland Ashland." Cutting the budget for city parks, recreational programs, services and facilities will not make Ashland safer, reduce public safety response times or capture the imagination of residents and the thousands of visitors to the community each year.

The annual investment in building, maintaining and updating great parks is an excellent use of taxpayer resources. A well-funded parks system pays dividends by increasing property values, protecting the environment, attracting visitors to our city, helping fuel the local economy and impacting the quality of life for citizens of all ages.

A robust slate of recreation programs and well-maintained facilities prevent or reduce crime and enrich the lives of thousands by providing healthy, educational and affordable entertainment options.

The current $2.09 per $1,000 of assessed value of property allocated by the Budget Committee and the City Council to the Parks and Recreation Department has not increased in 15 years, although the amount of developed park land and department-managed buildings has significantly increased over the same time frame. When one penny of the property tax represents thousands of dollars, any reduction will have noticeable and predictable consequences. Worse, it would send the message that Ashland's priorities are changing — and not for the better.

Please join me in preserving Ashland's wonderful parks and saving the community's recreation assets from short-sighted budget cuts. Pay attention to budget committee proceedings during the first few months of 2012, and let your voice be heard.

Rich Rosenthal

Ashland parks and recreation commissioner

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