Editorial: Save treasured attractions

On Saturday, two community treasures -- Rotary Storyland and Playland -- will open for the season, and all of us need to do our part to ensure that they have long and successful futures at Roeding Park. It's been a financial struggle recently, and City Hall has had to help keep Storyland and Playland running the past three years.

In a community with a severe lack of park space and too few investments in our children, these entertainment facilities have helped fill the void. But rising insurance costs and costly upkeep have contributed to the financial problems. The Fresno City Council is requiring that Storyland and Playland begin paying their own way, making this is a crucial year to turn around the nonprofit parks.

But there are reasons to be optimistic. There are fundraising events planned, and they have a bonus attached. The city will match the fundraising this year up to $100,000. There will be increased marketing, as well as a capital campaign for renovation and expansion. That should help.

The City Council wants the parks' board of trustees to run the facilities more efficiently. We agree that is important, and the city should not have to bail out the parks if they are not well run. But the council still needs to guarantee that Storyland and Playland survive. It would be one thing if the City Council had a record of providing enough parks for Fresno's families. That's not the case, and that cuts into the council credibility on this issue.

These facilities are in a major city park and they enhance the experience for families from throughout the Valley. Playland and Storyland have have long provided entertainment at a bargain price, and that should be much more valued at City Hall than it seems to be, judging by comments coming from council members. In addition, during Playland's booming years, it subsidized cultural amenities around our community. In the past 50 years, Playland provided $2 million to the city, and that helped Woodward Park, the Fresno Metropolitan Museum, the Chaffee Zoo and other community facilities.

Now it's struggling, and the community must help. Beginning Saturday, visit both facilities often. Your children and grandchildren will love you for it. Participate in the fundraising events to help the parks get the full $100,000 match from the city. Council members must demand that the operations of Storyland and Playland be as efficient as possible. They also must be willing to help where they can, and that may mean additional funding.

But let's worry about that problem if it arises. The best way to avoid future city funding is to help make Storyland and Playland as successful as possible -- beginning Saturday. We hope the lines are long and there is great joy coming from Fresno's children and their parents.