Guest post by Janelle Straw, WMEAC Policy Intern
On November 5, residents of Grand Rapids will vote on a proposed millage that will increase property taxes in order to create revenue for the city’s parks. The tax increase would affect the average homeowner by an additional $3.66 per month, according to Yes GR Parks. The increase would be applied to property taxes for seven years, beginning in 2015. Understanding the importance of city parks beyond the obvious recreational benefits is key to justifying the investment and understanding WMEAC’s full support of this campaign.
Parks are valuable assets to all types of communities. In the most basic sense, parks promote health and wellbeing by providing space for exercise and group activities. Such group activities can lead to a stronger sense of community, which benefits children and adults alike. Access to parks or other such natural areas can also improve the moods of people who spend large amounts of time indoors, or who live in a crowded area of the city.
Aside from the social benefits from access to well-kept parks, the natural environment is improved and protected. Having areas of plentiful tree and green plant growth helps reduce air pollution in cities. Parks increase biodiversity in areas that have been heavily developed. When located in areas surrounded by large amounts of concrete, asphalt, and traffic, parks, green spaces and natural areas reduce the heat island effect, which uninhibited can lead to heightened local temperatures and increased retention of ground-level air pollutants. Finally, parks mitigate storm water runoff. Stormwater runoff is one of the top sources of surface water pollution in West Michigan, and green areas can be very effective in collection and filtration of storm water before it returns to a water source. They also represent an opportunity for enhanced stormwater management through the installation of low-impact development tools. The stormwater sisterns of Joe Taylor Park are a prime example.
The numerous social and environmental benefits that come from a successful Yes GR Parks millage have been well- documented through years of city research and planning.