$3.6 Billion for Parks and Public Lands on the Ballot This November
According to a Trust for Public Land analysis, on Election Day, voters across the country will have the opportunity to approve over $3.6 billion in new funding for parks and public lands. Following on the heels of unprecedented increases in visitation to public lands — from neighborhood parks to national parks — during the COVID-19 crisis, the 2020 election will give voters in 48 jurisdictions throughout the country an opportunity to weigh in on the value of outdoors spaces to their quality of life.
The Trust for Public Land, through its Conservation Finance program and affiliated Trust for Public Land Action Fund, has actively helped design and seek voter support for park and land conservation measures on the 2020 ballot in 26 communities. Altogether, The Trust for Public Land is working with local residents on 54 percent of all of the parks and conservation measures on the ballot this year.
“During the current pandemic we have seen that our parks and public lands are more important than ever for people to safely get outside for their physical and mental health,” said Will Abberger, Director of Conservation Finance at The Trust for Public Land. If approved by the voters, these ballot measures will provide more equitable access to parks, protect air and water quality, help address climate change, and protect critical wildlife habitat in communities across the country.”
Since 1996, The Trust for Public Land and The Trust for Public Land Action Fund have helped state and local communities across the country raise nearly $80 billion in voter-approved public funds for land protection for parks, and acquisition of land to protect wildlife habitat, farmland, drinking water supplies, and natural areas. Voters of all political persuasion have approved 82 percent of the 703 ballot measures supported by The Trust for Public Land and The Trust for Public Land Action Fund.
Parks and public lands have proven to be an essential component of coping and recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they are recognized for reducing anxiety, stress, and depression and improving physical health. Over 100 million people in the U.S., including 28 million children, do not have a quality park or green space within a 10-minute walk of home. And not all parks are created equal: a recent analysis by the Trust for Public Land shows parks serving primarily nonwhite populations are half the size of parks that serve majority white populations and serve five times more people per acre. In addition to supporting Election Day ballot measures, The Trust for Public Land is leading a coalition of 100 community and environmental organizations to call on Congress to include a one-time investment of $500 million for close-to-home parks in any future coronavirus stimulus bill.
The following measures will appear on the ballot on November 3rd and are supported by The Trust for Public Land:
Measure Y – The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) placed a $735 million school bond on the November ballot. The Trust for Public Land has long worked with the District on green–or “living”–schoolyards in Oakland. OUSD has identified green schoolyards as one of the projects that could be funded by the 2020 school bond.
Proposition A – San Francisco voters will consider a $487.5 million bond that includes $239 million dedicated to neighborhood parks projects and a variety of programs that support recreation and open spaces throughout the city. The bond, a response to the economic difficulty caused by the pandemic, will also be used to support efforts to combat homelessness and mental health issues as well as upgrading city infrastructure.
Issue 1A- A renewal of a quarter-cent sales tax for parks and open space in Adams County, one of the most populous and rapidly developing counties in Colorado. If renewed, this tax would yield around $400 million over 20 years.
Measure 2A – If approved by Denver voters, a proposed Denver “climate sales tax”, a ¼-cent sales tax increase, would generate an estimated $720 million over the next 20 years for a wide variety of climate-related programs – an unprecedented move for a major city in the U.S. The Denver measure also directly addresses equity issues, mandating that the “funding should maximize investments in communities of color, under resourced communities, and communities most vulnerable to climate change and endeavor to invest 50% of the dedicated funds directly in community with a strong lens toward equity and race and social justice.”
Issue 7A – Voters within the Colorado River Water Conservation District will vote on a proposed property tax increase to protect water security in Western Colorado and improve water use and healthy streams (Issue 7A). The District is comprised of 15 counties west of the Continental Divide in which a majority of the Colorado River Basin exists. The measure could generate about $100 million over two decades.
Volusia County Forever and Volusia County ECHO – The Volusia County voters will see two land conservation measures on the November ballot: one for the renewal of the Volusia Forever land conservation program and one for the County’s Environmental, Cultural, Historic, and Outdoor Recreation (ECHO) program. If approved by the voters, these two measures would dedicate 1/5th mill property tax increase and provide $100 million in new bonding authority.
Conservation Collier – In Collier County, a 10-year, .25 mill property tax for the continuation of the highly successful Conservation Collier program for acquisition and management of environmentally sensitive lands could generate $287 million over the next decade.
Manatee County Bond Referendum – The Manatee County voters will decide on a 0.15 mill property tax increase and $50 million bond for the acquisition, improvement, and management of land to protect water quality, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, and provide parks. The measure would generate $108 million over the next two decades and would provide dedicated funding for land conservation and parks.
Local Law No. 1 – Voters in the Town of New Paltz will have the opportunity to be the first municipality in Ulster County to approve real estate transfer tax to support a local Community Preservation Fund. The fund will be used to protect rivers, lakes, streams, drinking water sources, working farms, and wildlife habitat. The measure could generate over $3.5 million over 20 years.
Community Preservation Act – Nine communities in Massachusetts will be voting on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in November. CPA is a state program that allows communities to establish a local fund dedicated to open space, outdoor recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Should all of these measures pass, it would generate almost $33million over the next 20 years for CPA open space and recreation projects, as well as making these communities eligible for additional state matching funds
Traverse City and Garfield Township Recreation Authority Levy – The Recreational Authority of Traverse City and Garfield Township have placed a 20-year property tax renewal originally passed in 2004 with support from the Trust for Public Land. The fund will assist with the purchase of 80 acres of forest and woodland, expanding public natural areas for passive recreational use. The measure will generate close to $13 million.
Amendment 20-1 – This statewide Constitutional Amendment proposal will lift the cap on how much the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund can take in. Created in 1976, the fund uses royalties from the oil, gas, and mining industries to create and protect state parks and other natural resources.
City Question #1 – Voters in the City of Rochester will vote on a $2 million per year property tax levy to improve park access for those with disabilities, improve park safety, conserve trees, and protect water quality and natural areas throughout Rochester.
Initiatives I-190 and CI-118: Montana Marijuana Tax – Montanans will vote on two statewide measures to legalize and tax recreational marijuana this November. I-190 allocates 50 percent of the tax proceeds to land conservation and CI-118 is a constitutional amendment to ensure that only adults aged 21 years and older can purchase. These initiatives are projected to generate $360 million over twenty years for land conservation in Montana.
Issue 14 – Voters in Ottawa County, located on Lake Erie, could establish their park district’s first dedicated funding source through a 10-year, 0.6 mill property tax increase (Issue 14). The fund will be used to creating hiking and biking trails, protect the water quality of Lake Erie, and fund other capital improvements, operations, and maintenance. $11 million could be created over the coming decade.
Measure 26-213: Recreation and Parks Levy – The Portland City Council voted to refer a five-year parks and recreation local property tax levy to the November ballot. The proposed levy will generate $293 million to restore investments in parks, natural areas, and services and will dramatically increase access to recreation opportunities for communities of color, refugees and immigrants, and families experiencing poverty.
Proposition A – Located in the Texas Hill Country, Hays County voters will see a $75 million open space bond on the November ballot. The measure will fund land protection for recreational or open-space use, protect wildlife habitat and water quality of creeks, rivers, and springs; and protect natural resources by minimizing flood risks and improving flood safety.
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.