Parks should be an investment priority

Opinion

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We Oak Parkers like to think of ourselves as the example of how every community should run its business. In many ways we are on solid ground in that belief.

All you have to do is look at the number of committees in the village to see that we like to be involved in decision-making. Our investment priorities?#34;schools, library, infrastructure?#34;show that we value good community services.

Unfortunately, missing from this list are our parks and recreation facilities. It has been 40 years since the voters approved a tax increase for the park district. It is time to correct that.

Over the last four years, two different citizens' committees have thoughtfully and methodically evaluated the condition of our parks and facilities to determine how best to address current and future recreation needs. I was fortunate to be a member of the first group, the Park District Infrastructure Committee, and to chair the second, the Park District Citizen Committee.

The Infrastructure Committee concluded that we face a $14 million repair bill for a decade's worth of deferred maintenance. We were reluctant to ask our neighbors to support that kind of investment without a plan that addressed changing needs. The Park District Citizen Committee picked up the baton from that point and helped a planning consultant develop a Comprehensive Master Plan that integrated programming and facility priorities.

The Comprehensive Master Plan is driven by a detailed community survey and stakeholder interviews that showed a desire for responsible management and a balanced approach to capital improvements. The Citizen Committee and our consultant recommended an end to the village subsidy of park programming and a commitment to reversing a pattern of deferred maintenance by creating a long-term capital improvement plan.

On April, we have the opportunity to support the kind of government and community services we say we want. Extensive citizen involvement over four years has brought us to this point, and prudent infrastructure investment priorities require us to act. The park district needs the referendum to do the job we expect of them, and we must approve it to avoid the continuing deterioration of our parks and to protect the quality of life we value and expect in our community.

I've spent four years studying this issue and I will be voting "YES" on April 5. So should you.

Doug Varn
Chair, Park District Citizen Committee

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