Voters in Three Cities Approve Spending for Parks

November 6, 2013

Voters in Newark, Cleveland and Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved local taxes to pay for better parks in their cities, The Trust for Public Land announced today.

Yesterday:

  • Newark, N.J., voters gave 84% approval to create the Newark Open Space & Recreation Trust Fund, which would receive about $1.1 million a year to maintain city parks and provide new parks. The money would come from a tax of one penny per $100 of real property value.
  • In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, voters in Cleveland and nearby communities gave 70% passage to a measure that increases the local levy used to pay for a variety of parks in the county. The measure will bring in about $75 million a year over the next 10 years.
  • In Michigan, Grand Rapids voters passed by a 60-40 margin a park levy which will create $28 million over the next seven years.

"With 80% of Americans living in cities, it is great to see voters recognize the importance of good parks which are close to home," said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land. "But yesterday's results aren't surprising. Over and over again, for almost 20 years, we have seen voters willing to vote to spend their own money for parks. Whether they live in 'red' or 'blue' states, they care about parks which help make cities a better place to live."

The three successful city measures were among 15 local conservation spending proposals on yesterday's ballot. Twelve of the 15 passed, and will generate over $1 billion for local conservation over the next two decades. The only major loss came in Boise, Idaho, where voters gave 62-38% support for a conservation tax, but that figure fell just short of the 2/3 approval required.

Tuesday's results also track closely with decisions by urban voters earlier this year:

  • In April, voters in St. Louis and St. Louis County approved a local proposition increasing sales taxes by 3/16th of a cent to generate more than $622 million for improvements around the Gateway Arch and local and regional parks and trails.
  • Portland, Ore., metro area voters decided in May to approve a property tax increase lasting five years and setting aside $10 million a year for parks and open spaces.
  • In August, voters in King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, voted 70-30 to renew a local levy which will provide $60 million a year for the next six years for parks and trails.

The 2013 approvals follow on a wave of city park spending in November, 2012, when voters approved park bonds or taxes in San Francisco, Houston, Salt Lake, Austin, El Paso, Toledo, Bozeman, Montana; and Polk County, Iowa (Des Moines).

An analysis of urban voting patterns done by the Conservation Finance team of The Trust for Public Land showed that since 1996, 59 of America's 100 most populous cities have voted on either a citywide or countywide conservation spending measure; 54 of those were approved.

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.