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Letter: Carbondale Park District's request warrants further scrutiny

updated: 4/27/2018 11:07 AM

To the editor: The Carbondale Park District has recently asked the city to assume responsibility for a number of our parks. Responsibility for the natural areas is reflected in the CPD's mission to "enrich the quality of community life through the diversity of leisure pursuits and to heighten appreciation of our natural world."

In spite of publicly voiced concerns about the fiscal responsibility of the Splash Park, now the CPD treasurer states that financial challenges make changes necessary (Feb. 28, Carbondale Times).

Whether or not the current financial problems were "handed to us," as the CPD president states, the decision to jettison the parks ignores their mission statement and is not the exit plan needed to try to maintain the Splash Park if that's what has diluted commitment to the parks.

There have been confusing reports about the success of the Splash Park. On July 24, 2017, an article posted online stated that "Carbondale Splash Park Owes Thousands After Budget Shortfall." The article noted that a fundraiser over an extremely hot weekend had lower turnout than expected which was, ironically, blamed on the heat.

Then on Aug. 2, 2017, the Carbondale Times reported "Splash Park Going Strong in Second Season" and was expecting more than 30,000 people with 11,000 paid admissions. The weather was cited as a "big help to the park's admission numbers with no rain days and high attendance in hot weather."

The CPD has been an independent entity. We elect commissioners dedicated to the value of a healthy park system and to assure a strong focus toward maintenance of both natural areas and recreation. The articles we've read indicate that the CPD wants the city to either create a parks division or pay the existing CPD to take care of the parks with a $150,000 stipend.

If the latter is the case, will other bids be encouraged? If the city is acquiring the parks, can taxpayers be assured that maintenance of the parks will not be "deferred" as they have been under the CPD?

The primary common ground between the city and the CPD, besides serving citizens, is a shared tax base. If there is a city parks division, would there be the constant threat that the parks budget would succumb to shortfalls in other departments? Would city management enhance or dilute commitment to our parks and change every time we have a new mayor? Would there be inefficient and costly duplication of services? If the parks become part of the city, can we eliminate dual taxing bodies?

Eunice Buck and Gerard Archibald

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