Valley Voices

Let’s reinvest in Fresno’s neighborhood parks

The Shinzen Friendship Garden in Woodward Park during the Spring Blossom Festival is a Fresno treasure.
The Shinzen Friendship Garden in Woodward Park during the Spring Blossom Festival is a Fresno treasure. Fresno Bee File/2016

More than 100 years ago, our city leaders formed the first Parks Commission of Fresno, which helped spearhead the development of Roeding Park, Woodward Park and other green spaces to both vitalize and beautify the community.

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JUAN ARAMBULA

These founding leaders understood the crucial role that parks play in the development of a city, and the lasting benefits they would bring to Fresno families for generations to come.

A recent study found that Fresno ranked 90th out of the top 100 cities in the nation when it comes to park access, acreage and investment – and Fresno was the worst in the country from 2013-2015. In 2018 we find ourselves with parks that are run-down, deteriorating and unsafe due to a lack of investment. This needs to be fixed.

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LARRY POWELL

When a city values its parks, they become more than a safe place to play and exercise. Parks help strengthen the city’s economy, increase property values, and improve the overall health and quality of life for its residents.

Recently, after years of study and community input from thousands of Fresnans, the Fresno City Council developed and approved the Parks Master Plan, which shows that 80 percent of Fresno’s parks are in fair or poor condition.

The Parks Master Plan details the dire needs in our parks system, including millions each year needed to fix existing parks, perform routine maintenance that has gone unattended, provide access to parks for those who lack it and more.

That’s why a diverse, bipartisan coalition of parents, seniors, park supporters and community leaders have come together to find a solution and improve local parks. Our solution is the “Fresno Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Initiative,” which provides a guaranteed, local source of funding that will raise an estimated $38 million per year to maintain and improve our parks.

Our parks need help, and this initiative will provide it. It will invest in our parks and implement many of the priorities laid out in the Parks Master Plan, focusing on safe and clean neighborhood parks by fixing and maintaining our parks and improving access to quality, usable parks in every neighborhood across the city.

The initiative has detailed plans to improve our parks and make them more usable, including reducing crime and homelessness in parks, updating and maintaining park restrooms, improving accessibility for persons with disabilities, updating playgrounds and sports facilities and bringing parks and recreation centers up to current health and safety standards.

And it has dozens of other vital benefits for our city, such as job training programs for at-risk youth and veterans, after-school and youth recreational programs, arts and cultural programs and safe walking and biking trails.

The measure will ensure that visitors and non-Fresno residents pay their fair share through a 3/8-cent sales tax in the city of Fresno. That’s an average of $39 per household each year – or just $3.25 each month per household.

The initiative also includes strong provisions for fiscal accountability and citizen oversight. This oversight – a new Parks, Recreation, and Art Commission – 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 spent on other things.

For many years, civic leaders served our community on a City Parks Commission. This initiative is reviving this important body.

Investing in our local parks helps keep our city a desirable place to live, work and raise a family.

Quality parks are proven to increase property values, reduce crime, and the measure will help improve the local economy and create local jobs.

To join us and thousands of our fellow Fresnans in supporting Fresno’s parks, look for us in neighborhoods, at grocery stores, parks and other locations to place your signature on the dotted line to put the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Initiative on the ballot.

Former Assemblymember Juan Arambula and former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell are co-chairs of Fresno for Parks, a diverse group of Fresno residents that believe safer, cleaner parks for all Fresnans are important to the health, safety and overall quality of life of our community. You can learn more about Fresno for Parks at FresnoforParks.com.

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