Working for Smart Growth:
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Voting for Parks

October 20th, 2006 by

  • New Jersey voters will consider a ballot question on November 7 about additional funding for parks. Ballot question #2 asks voters whether or not to amend the state constitution to create an ongoing, stable source of funding for capital repairs, improvements, construction, and renovation of New Jersey’s state, county, and local parks and natural areas.
  • If approved, the initiative would reallocate a surplus of existing funds from the Corporate Business Tax already dedicated to the environment. The ballot question does not propose any increase in the Corporate Business Tax, but only a reallocation of unused funds in the underground storage tank program.
  • Through 2015, $15 million annually would be allocated to improving parks and natural areas across the state, with an increase to $32 million annually thereafter. It would require no new taxes or any other revenue source to be raised or used.
  • Many communities, particularly older communities with precious little parkland to begin with, cannot afford to maintain attractive and safe parks, thanks to the eroding tax bases in these communities. The City of Newark, for example, only spends $35 per resident on parks, well below the national big-city average of over $80. And Newark is not unique.
  • New Jersey’s parks and natural areas have an estimated $250 million in overdue repairs, resulting in the closure of nature centers and campgrounds, dilapidated boat ramps, and inadequate facilities for visitors. While the state has increased its open space by over 200,000 acres in the last ten years, resources have not been available to maintain these lands and create opportunities for New Jersey residents and visitors.

New Jersey’s communities cannot prosper without well-maintained parks and open spaces to attract new residents, shoppers, and employers. At the same time, our rural lands cannot be preserved unless we have other attractive locations for growth in new and existing villages, towns, and cities that offer their own thriving open spaces and parks.

Funding for parks is vital to keeping New Jerseyans healthy and happy. An inability to maintain parks blocks economic investment, which hampers our state’s prosperity and quality of life. Eroding tax bases in many older communities often lead to insufficient and dilapidated parks that undermine the quality of life for residents of these communities, especially children, and stymie community revitalization and regional prosperity. Parks and playgrounds make neighborhoods more livable – for example, access to public parks and recreational facilities has been strongly linked to reductions in crime and to reduced juvenile delinquency.

Voter approval of ballot question #2 would create a stable source of funding for capital repairs at state and local parks and natural areas and is a critical step forward towards reversing the trend of underfunding these important features of the Garden State. New Jersey Future has long supported increasing funding for the maintenance of New Jersey’s parks. Passage of this ballot question would create an on-going, dedicated source of money to address this backlog as well as future needs and ensure high-quality, accessible natural areas in a wide variety of communities across the state.

For questions about this issue of Future Facts, contact 609/393-0008, ext. 101.

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