Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz put forward some bold ideas about Toledo’s parks and recreation programs when he campaigned last year.
Toledo’s neglected network of nearly 150 parks had been in decline for years, he said on the campaign trail. It needs new energy, a new plan, a bold vision.
As mayor he promised everything from looking for a dedicated funding stream to assure the city’s pools open every summer without budget drama, to pursuing plans to turn Grassy Island — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-owned island off the shore of North Toledo’s Cullen Park — into a park itself.
Now, after six months of studying, Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s recreation task force has indeed found that the city must turn its attention to updating and upgrading its parks and recreation.
The $42 per resident that Toledo spends on its parks each year is far below the national average of $83. And about 80 percent of what the city spends on its parks goes just to keep the grass mowed.
There is nothing surprising in these findings. Anyone who lives near a Toledo park would likely call them painfully obvious.
And as the mayor himself said on the campaign trail, the contrast between Toledo’s often raggedy parks and the nearby world class Metroparks Toledo make Toledo parks seem even worse.
The task force has suggested Toledo increase its parks funding as soon as possible — from 1 percent of general fund budget to 2 percent.
The money should fund improved facilities and more recreation programs, the group said. Again, no surprises in that conclusion.
So now it is time for the Kapszukiewicz administration to not only act on these task force recommendations, but to do more.
It’s time to revive the Grassy Island proposal and to embrace other bold ideas, such as call to create a green, walkable riverfront on the downtown side of the river to mirror the new Metropark being built on the East Toledo riverfront.
There is no debate that green space and vibrant parks add to the quality of life in a city. They help attract new residents and spur economic development, too. Likewise, no one in Toledo needed to be convinced that the city has too long neglected both its park spaces and its recreational offerings.
The only thing left to figure out is how to find the political will to fund the upgrades, overhauls, and new projects. Now it is time for the Kapszukiewicz administration to work those items into the city’s budget and convince Toledo City Council to approve it.
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