Keep our parks open
To the Editor,
I read the article “City parks may be on chopping block” from May 17 with great interest. As a former three-term councilman representing Ward 6, I recall discussions like this occurring often. Budgets were always tight. Trying to find ways to provide basic services residents expected required factoring in the costs of recreation. While the Park Board is set up to run as “autonomous” meaning that they are supposed to be self-sufficient and responsible for administering their budget as they see fit, they are reliant on revenue that flows from Weirton’s General Fund, CDBG and Weirton’s share of the Hotel Occupancy Tax after it is divided with The Top of WV CVB to supplement their budget just to name a few. They also rely on civic organizations and volunteers to assist in capital projects and general upkeep of their parks.
All these sources merged to update the Murphy Avenue Playground located in Ward 6. My neighbor at the time was a boy named Aaron Davies. He was stricken with cancer and passed in 2005 after a courageous battle fought, just 17 years old. I wanted to do something special for him so he would never be forgotten by those outside his circle of life. I talked to his family about naming the playground after him. With their blessing, we started on a two-year odyssey with a plan on renovating the playground back to its former luster. With the cooperation of city entities, we were able to secure thousands of dollars to get the project rolling. In August of 2007, people of all ages came together to finish painting and making renovations to the playground in Aaron’s honor. Paint, supplies, refreshments — all donated. Add this to the thousands spent in preparation for that day and you can see how reading that parks may be on the “chopping block” would concern me.
I’ve been out of the game for a while now, but I know when I exited city government five years ago, it was left with a revenue stream that has provided more money than the city has ever seen, utilizing the B&O tax. Millions, not thousands. Add to this B&O revenue the sales tax that was enacted by the current administration. The city coffers are full. Knowing that recreation is a huge part of economic development, that it was near the top of the list generated from citizen/council workshops that defined what and how the city should fund services, I think it is paramount of the current and future administrations to consider the importance of upkeep and staffing of the city’s parks and playgrounds through proper funding by supplementing the Park Board’s budget.
I challenge the Park Board and Council to work together to identify a proper revenue stream to supplement the Park Board’s operations so that parks like the Aaron Davies Memorial Playground are not cut but are enhanced as the city continues to move forward.