Preservation Parks of Delaware County leaders hope voters are willing to pay a little bit more to further the system’s mission of conservation and provide more accessible green space to residents.
The Preservation Parks board voted in June to place a 10-year, 0.6-mill renewal levy plus a 0.3-mill increase on the Nov. 7 ballot.
County homeowners pay about $18 annually per $100,000 in property valuation to support the parks system under the current levy, which is set to expire at the end of 2018. They would pay $28.68 per $100,000 in property valuation starting in 2019 if voters approve the proposed levy.
Tom Curtin, executive director of the park system, said increased funding will help the system vie with developers eager to turn the county’s green space into commercial complexes and neighborhoods.
“Time is of the essence, absolutely,” he said. “We do need to move as quickly as we can to acquire property.”
The system’s current levy provides about $3.57 million in annual revenue – about 80 percent of its funding. The proposed levy would bring in an additional $2.1 million per year.
Curtin said the park system would “miss opportunities for growth” if the levy failed. He said expansion efforts already proposed also could suffer.
“Our ability to do the projects we’ve talked about would really slow down,” he said.
The system’s plans for the immediate future include the development of two parks.
Preservation Parks owns about 115 acres off Pollock Road, bounded by the Olentangy River to the west and Berlin Station Road to the east. The proposed park – just outside Delaware’s city limits – is about 4 miles from the future site of Olentangy Berlin High School.
The system also is working to acquire and develop 230 acres along Interstate 71 near Bale Kenyon Road and to expand Emily Traphagen Park just west of Powell.
Curtin said the development timelines for the parks off Pollock and Bale Kenyon roads, in particular, will slow down significantly if voters do not approve the levy.
Parks officials also have pledged to continue working on the county’s trails.
In particular, Curtin said the cycling community is enthusiastic about Preservation Parks’ goal of completing links for the Ohio to Erie Trail, a path system that runs from the Ohio River to Lake Erie.
If the levy is approved, Curtin said the park system also plans to create a new grant program for communities in Delaware County. Cities, townships and villages could apply annually for funding from Preservation Parks to put toward new trails.
Curtin said Preservation Parks officials want to team with local governments to connect the county via multiuse paths.
“We realize it’s important to work with everybody in the entire county on making these trails a reality,” he said.
Curtin said the amount of money in the grant fund likely would vary from year to year.
Preservation Parks currently runs nine parks: Blues Creek in Ostrander; Char-Mar in Westerville; Deer Haven, Gallant Farm, Gallant Woods and River Run in Delaware; Emily Traphagen in Powell; Hogback Ridge in Sunbury; and the system’s newest park, Shale Hollow in Lewis Center.