The public continues to show overwhelming support for local parks and recreation, regardless of politics.
You probably already know if you live in one of the 13 states holding primary elections on (Super) Tuesday, March 1. You know because you’ve likely been overwhelmed by commercials and other political media for the past few weeks.
With the 2016 election cycle now in full swing, the media and even candidates themselves seem to take pleasure in reminding us how divided and politically polarized our society has become. While there certainly appears to be strong differences of opinion on many things, one area that voters of all party or political affiliations continue to agree on is the value of local public parks and recreation service — and we have the numbers to prove it!
The recent nationwide study commissioned by NRPA, and conducted by Penn State University, indicates an overwhelmingly strong opinion for parks and recreation across the political spectrum. The study showed individuals identifying themselves as republican, democrat and independent have virtually identical levels of use of their local park and recreation services, opinions of the benefits provided by these services and even their willingness to pay for them with their tax dollars.
Specifically, 78 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of independents (that's four-out-five people, PEOPLE!) believe these services are worth the national average of about $70 per person in local taxes that go into paying for them. So, the proof that local parks and recreation are overwhelmingly well supported in a totally non-partisan manner is there.
But these results really shouldn't come as a surprise. For years, we’ve seen voters casting ballots in support of state and local level conservation and recreation funding over and over again.
Let’s highlight a few examples from “Super Tuesday” states:
In 2014, Florida voters (by a three-to-one margin) approved the single largest state land conservation in state history. An amendment to the state constitution to dedicate $18 billion over the next 20 years, with half set aside for new land acquisition.
Also in 2014, Californians voted for $1.5 billion in land conservation as part of a larger water infrastructure bond. It marked the first new state funding specifically for land conservation in a decade.
In fact, 2015 happened to be a particularly strong year for local voters taxing themselves specifically for parks and recreation in states typically described as “red.” Voters in Norman, Oklahoma and the Texas communities of San Antonio, Frisco, and Harris County (Houston) all approved extensions of existing special sales taxes and/or major bond initiatives to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in support of their local parks.
So, as you prepare to go to polls — whether it be next Tuesday or not until November — remember that appreciating the value of your local parks and recreation services is not a partisan issue and remind your elected leaders (at all levels of government) that in this case red and blue, make GREEN.
David Tyahla is NRPA's Senior Government Affairs Manager.