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Environment & Energy

Future of Stark Parks Depends on Results of Tuesday's Primary

a lake in Canton
Sippo Lake in Canton has remained open during the pandemic. If Stark Parks levy fails, the lake will likely be closed.

The results of Tuesday's primary will determine whether Stark Parks will have the money it needs to keep the system operational.

If a renewal levy on the ballot passes, Stark Parks will be able to keep open thousands of acres of hiking and biking trails and marinas.

Last November voters defeated a parks levy that include a slight increase over the current levy.

Park District Director Bob Fonte says the failure was because some voters mistakenly believed the park district was taking land by eminent domain. “We never took a farm or trail right of way by eminent domain in our 51 year history,” he said.

Now, Stark Parks is asking voters to renew its existing 1-mill levy, with no increase, for eight years. It would cost owners of a $100,000 home about $34 dollars a year to keep open 15 parks, four lakes and 120 miles of trails.

“It’s less than $3 a month for unlimited access to trails and parks and water activities,” Fonte said. “You can fish or if you have your own boat you can launch for free at various lakes throughout the county. So all those benefits of having access to nature are good for your mental health as well as your physical health.”

The levy also would support the district’s wildlife rehabilitation center.

“We take injured animals and restore them to health and re-release them to the environment,” he said. “It’s a very, very successful release rate - one of the highest, if not the highest, in the state.”

If the levy fails Tuesday, the district could try again in November. But there’s not enough money to keep about 70 staff members working till then, Fonte said. Stark Parks would begin closing its facilities immediately and layoffs will follow.