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Environment


Northeast Ohio voters approve park levies across the board
Canton city parks and Metroparks in Summit and Cuyahoga pass with strong support.
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Senior Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Nate Eppink marks the latest vote totals last night for the Summit Metroparks levy.
Courtesy of MARK URYCKI
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In The Region:
Voters approved park levies in Canton, Summit County, and Cuyahoga County yesterday. The two Metroparks had long-term renewals but Canton is embarking on a new way of funding its city parks.
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It’s been a heady year for Cuyahoga County Metroparks. The system added new facilities and reservations, and absorbed beachfront parks once owned by the state. So it went to voters with a 10-year, 2.7 mill levy.

That’s a 50 percent increase from its last levy. And voters agreed to it. Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman says the extra money is needed to maintain the new properties like West Creek reservation, Acacia and the former state parks.

“The lakefront parks have been something that Bill Stinchcomb and the Olmstead brothers (had in mind) when they created the vision for modern day metro parks. The lakefront was always part of the original vision.”

That original vision began 96 years ago.  

Canton tries a new way
For the city of Canton, it’s a new start. The 15 city parks and various recreation facilities have always been part of the general fund, reliant on Canton City Council for backing. But with yesterday’s passage of a three-year, 4-mill levy, the park system will get some of its funding directly from property tax revenue. The new money means the park will hire three new staff members and a police officer, as well as improve and expand the properties and trails it owns. It also means more than a million dollars will be freed up from the general fund to be spent on firefighters and police.

Summit investments
In Summit County, voters were also feeling friendly to their parks.  They passed a 1.5-mill Metropark levy that lasts seven years. One Akron voter, Richard Chambers, saw that levy and some others, as long-term investments.

“(We must) maintain these base services: the ADM board, the Metroparks, improving the steam plant -- those infrastructure things that attract people and businesses to our city and make things so livable here.”

Return on investment
Both Summit Metroparks and Cuyahoga Metroparks have conducted studies showing that they do return millions of dollars of value back into the community. That can be measured by everything from alleviating storm-water runoff to attracting people and business. The director of Summit Metroparks, Keith Shy says the system has attracted some $20 million  in grants since its last levy passed in 2006.

“It’s leveraging local tax dollars and those grants were going to go somewhere in Ohio --  in another county  or out of state. And we’ve been pretty savvy in being able to do that.  The new Freedom Trail and the new bridge over I-271 and a couple other projects we’ve done have cost taxpayers virtually nothing.”

Looking ahead, Shy says Summit Metroparks plans to build a nature center at Liberty Park in Twinsburg. 

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