Blue Springs voters on Tuesday have the opportunity to move their community forward in a key quality-of-life area.
The city’s proposed half-cent sales tax for parks is worthy of voter support.
The tax would raise $3 million a year and would chiefly do two things: address a backlog of deferred park maintenance and move the city ahead with a $35 million community center.
The city has in recent years put an emphasis on streets and sidewalks in response to citizen desires. That’s appropriate. But parks have suffered some. Now making to improvements to them – including trails – needs to get a higher priority. The city, with a population that continues to grow, also has park land sitting undeveloped. It’s time to move ahead on that.
There is money in the tax plan to help local youth sports leagues as well as support the visual and performing arts. There is money for Vesper Hall, which has served seniors well for decades, and to expand senior transportation. More than one-tenth of the money would go for big-ticket park maintenance issues such as shelter houses and ball fields. For example, the city has listed the tennis courts at Baumgardner Park, the shelter at Pink Hill Park and repairs at the Hidden Valley Sports Complex.
The biggest chuck of money – more than half – would go toward construction of the community center, which itself would be an important part of developing the Missouri Innovation Park near U.S. 40 and Adams Dairy Parkway. It would have a lazy river, a lap pool and a warm-water therapy pool. There would be space for the performing arts, as well as a teen center and an indoor playground.
What’s the common theme here? These are not just nice amenities. They are building blocks for community development. Why does a family or a business choose to locate in a community? The factors can be many, but key among them are the quality of schools and the quality of life. Good parks – plentiful, nearby, with a variety of activities – are crucial to answering that question.
Of the 50 largest cities in Missouri, Blue Springs is almost alone in having no specific, dedicated source of park funding. The city can do only so much with what it has. Maintenance can only be deferred so long. This is a chance to make things better.