Budget cuts, though, have meant that repairs and maintenance of our parks have not kept up with demand. The county is struggling to maintain adequate garbage pickup, regularly clean park restrooms, and keep after school and summer programs open that help kids stay away from crime, gangs and drugs.
Santa Cruz County parks give access to our unique natural heritage from the mountains to the coastline. Access to local parks helps maintain our high quality of life and makes Santa Cruz County a great place to live and work. Our parks provide playgrounds, athletic fields, picnic areas, pools, beach access, and opportunities for healthy recreation — more than a million visits a year. The Fifth District alone has 526 acres of County parkland.
The Parks Division of the County's Public Works Department maintains 59 parks, beach access, and open spaces encompassing more than 1,400 acres in the unincorporated areas. In addition, Parks provides afterschool programs, swim lessons, art and science enrichment, and sports leagues for children. Programs for seniors provide opportunities to maintain fitness and an active lifestyle. Parks staff also oversees the County Public Art Program.
Stable local funding is essential for our parks. For the past 20 years, County Service Area No. 11 service charges have allowed for the maintenance and operations of the county park system.
On June 3, voters will be asked to approve Measure F, a replacement of existing funding for our parks that will expire this year. The current annual service charge is $6.58 per residential unit was established in 1998-99. Measure F proposes to replace the funds with an annual $8.50 a year parcel tax.
On February 25, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved placing the measure on the ballot. We were enthusiastically supported by Fifth District residents Fred and Roberta McPherson, James Williams, and Chuck Baughman. Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, the Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Commission, and Save Our Shores also urged support for the tax.
My thought on an $8.50 annual parcel tax to maintain our county parks: So little cost, so much benefit.
The $8.50 annual tax would generate about $355,000 a year of the $5.7 million annual County Parks budget. The measure requires a two-thirds voter approval and would apply only within CSA 11, which encompasses the entire unincorporated areas of the county, except for the independent recreation districts of Alba, Boulder Creek, La Selva, and Opal Cliffs.
Our residents deserve clean restrooms and clean park grounds. We want to keep our beaches and parks from becoming dirty and rundown. Our children also need after school and summer activities to keep them on a path for success.
A parcel tax of $8.50 a year for our parks is a bargain. Please join me in supporting stewardship of our local parks. Please vote “Yes” on Measure F for safe and clean County Parks.
- Bruce McPherson of Pasatiempo was elected as Fifth District Santa Cruz County Supervisor in 2012.