One of two measures Colorado Springs voters will decide in April’s election would allow the city to spend more money on park maintenance from TOPS, a fund that uses a 0.1% sales tax to buy land for outdoor recreation. The city has a big backlog of park maintenance and construction projects, but as KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports, one park advocacy group says this measure isn’t a great solution.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Richard Skorman is one of the original campaigners for TOPS. It raises about $6 million a year, mostly for purchasing open space that requires little maintenance. But 20 percent is dedicated to creating city parks. Since its passage in 1997, Colorado Springs has developed 34 new parks with the fund. Skorman says the problem now is taking care of them.

“We’re in the north part of Memorial Park and we’re at a playground area that is pretty run down and is actually pretty heavily used. If the TOPS adjustment passes this will be one of the first places they’ll be able to fix up.”

Skorman recently chaired the mayor’s Parks Solutions Team, which proposed the ballot measure. He says it would give the city the flexibility to spend the 20 percent of TOPS that’s now reserved for creating parks on renovation and upkeep, too.

“When the recession hit they really were in a pickle for funding. So they have this 20 percent category for the TOPS parks that is currently just being stockpiled because they don’t want to build any more parks that they can’t maintain.”

The ballot measure would also for the first time allow the city to spend TOPS money to maintain pre-TOPS parks, like Memorial. One goal is to retrofit inefficient irrigation systems.

Susan Davies agrees about the need for maintenance and renovation. She directs the Trails and Open Space Coalition and served on Skorman’s Parks Solutions Team. But her group is asking voters to reject the ballot measure. Davies says their concern is that if the measure is passed, the city could use the TOPS money to replace regular maintenance spending.

“We really wanted language in the ballot measure that would guarantee that at the end of the day maintenance for parks was improved, not status quo. I think we all agree status quo wasn’t good enough.”

Mayor Steve Bach opposed putting such a promise in the ballot measure, but he recently declared in writing he has no intention of lowering the budget for maintenance if this passes, unless there’s some kind of emergency. City Council also said much the same in a nonbinding resolution last week. Davies says the statements are helpful, but the TOPS fund should be protected by more than that.

“What voters will be deciding in April is, do you trust policy makers to do the right thing? We hope they do. We hope we’re wrong.”

Ballots are already in the mail. The deadline for returning them is April 2nd.

 

Comments are closed.

News

Getty Images
July 1, 2016 | NPR · Babies of color now outnumber non-Hispanic white babies (one year or younger).
 

Youtube
July 1, 2016 | NPR · A video of a Lithuanian goat beauty contest is going viral. But … what makes a goat beautiful?
 

Courtesy of New District Brewing Company
July 1, 2016 | NPR · Fueled by customers’ unquenchable thirst for the next great flavor note, the craft beer industry has exploded like a poorly fermented bottle of home brew.
 

Arts & Life

Twentieth Century Fox
July 1, 2016 | NPR · We thought we were going to see Independence Day: Resurgence. In this episode, we dive into why most of us didn’t and we take a raucous quiz on sequel titles.
 

Michele K. Short/ Universal Studios
July 1, 2016 | NPR · The third film in the Purge franchise once again binges on ugly, incoherent set-pieces that glorify our basest instincts.
 

Ed Kashi/Courtesy of Crown
July 1, 2016 | NPR · Suki Kim wrote Without You, There Is No Us after working undercover as a teacher in North Korea. She says the response to her book is also a response to her identity as Korean and a woman.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
July 1, 2016 | NPR · The new video from Jamie xx, for the song “Gosh,” is a small wonder to behold.
 

Speaking Ameriky
July 1, 2016 | NPR · With an assist from producer Sly5thave, the R&B-adjacent duo transitions from a precipitous moment into a stone-cold jam session with a lustfully bubbly mood.
 

WPR
July 1, 2016 | WPR · Inspired by R&B and soul, the Minnesota singer plays “Bloodstyle” for Wisconsin Public Radio.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab