Portage County – The Citizens for Portage Parks has launched its campaign asking voters to support a 1/2 mill operating and improvement levy for the Portage Parks on May 6, 2014.

Tom Clapper, Chair of the Citizens for Portage Parks Levy Steering Committee, said, “Since July 2013, we have conducted an educational campaign about the incredible value of our Portage Parks.  The feedback was overwhelmingly supportive of the Park District.  People love the hike and bike trails and see the benefits of having more of them in our county.  Throughout our campaign we will continue to spread the word about the quality the parks bring to our lives and their contribution to our county’s health, fitness and economic development efforts.”

A 1/2 mill operating levy is projected to cost the $100,000 homeowner $17.50 per year or less than $1.50 per month.  Revenues from the levy will cover operating and improvement costs enabling the parks to develop more hike and bike trails, open more parkland, enhance public programming, and address much-needed maintenance.

“The Parks are being run on a shoestring.  Support is needed to further develop our hike and bike trails as well as maintain our public land.  We are at the point where we are just trying to keep what we have open.” Clapper added.

“The Portage Park system has 1300 acres and 14 miles of hike and bike trails, but 838 acres of park land cannot be open to the public due to lack of funding,” said Chris Craycroft, Executive Director and the only full-time employee of the parks.  “We estimate that we have 400,000 visits per year, so we know our parks are popular but we need stable funding to maintain and improve them.”

The Parks are funded from the Portage County general fund, local government funds from the state, rentals, royalties, donations and grants for special projects.  The total 2014 operating budget for Portage Parks is $99,500.  Funding from the state and county has declined by 50% over the past two years causing the parks to rely on private donations to meet basic operations.

“Our financial situation is not sustainable over the long term.   We don’t have the resources for the major maintenance that is needed, we can’t open up parkland we already own, and with each year that passes we are losing opportunities.” Craycroft added.

“We could do so much more for Portage County with support.  Between now and May 6, we are going to spread the word about this important issue.  We believe that once the citizens learn about this issue, they will be compelled to support our Portage Parks,” said Clapper.  Clapper invited any interested volunteers to attend a Volunteer Orientation on February 21, 6:00 p.m., at the Portage County Gardeners Center, 5154 S. Prospect Street, Ravenna.

For more information about this issue, go to www.citizensforportageparks.com.