Preservation Parks of Delaware County will ask voters to approve a 10-year, 0.6 (six-tenths)-mill tax levy in the Nov. 4 election.

Preservation Parks of Delaware County will ask voters to approve a 10-year, 0.6 (six-tenths)-mill tax levy in the Nov. 4 election.

The issue will enable the district to open more parks, enlarge and improve existing parks, expand educational programming, preserve additional wildlife habitat and continue to protect watersheds, a press release said.

The park district's current 10-year levy, approved by voters in 1999, will expire in December.

The proposed levy would replace the existing 0.4-mill levy and include an additional 0.2 mill for a total of 0.6 mill. The Delaware County auditor has estimated that the levy will raise $3.7-million a year and will cost residential taxpayers an estimated $18.38 a year for every $100,000 in property value.

"This small increase is needed to cover the costs of operating and staffing our current and future parks," said Rita Au, Preservation Parks executive director. "We are committed to providing safe and well-maintained parks for the public. We also want to be able to protect additional natural areas as the opportunity arises. For other park districts in Ohio, which are similar in size, the average levy is 1 mill."

Since passage of the existing levy, Preservation Parks has opened seven parks. An eighth -- Deer Haven Preserve in Liberty Township -- is slated to open in August. The park district has land set aside for a ninth park, and the city of Columbus has made a commitment to build a park adjacent to an upland reservoir to be built in Thompson Township.

Facilities now offered throughout the park district include nature trails, picnic areas, restroom facilities, nature centers, community meeting space, shelters, playgrounds and a sledding hill.

"Our goal after the 1999 levy was approved was to acquire property and to open parks in all areas of Delaware County, so that every resident would live within a 30-minute drive of at least one park," said Au. "We've been able to meet that goal.

"We've also been able to leverage tax dollars into grants and donations that have offset some of the land purchase and park development costs," she said. "We'll continue to seek outside funding to help us make the most of the tax income.

"Now, our plans are to expand and improve the current parks," she said. "Proposed projects include lengthening the nature trails, installing bridges over ravines, paving the entrance roads and parking areas, and adding wildlife blinds and wetland habitats. We also plan to continue the development of an historic farm and to add a dedicated nature center."

Au said demand for reservable picnic areas is growing, and future plans call for building additional shelters.

Demand for educational programs also continues to increase, she said.

Preservation Parks' two naturalists conduct public nature programs each month, and provide programs for schools, Scout groups and other organizations. Since January, for example, the two have conducted an average of 30 school presentations each month.

"We'd like to add another naturalist, to increase the number of environmental education programs we can offer to the community," Au said.

"We've made so much progress in the past nine years, opening seven, almost eight, parks in that short time," she said. "We're excited about being able to improve our park system for the community and to protect additional natural areas in our rapidly developing county."