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It can even be argued that parks play an important role in economic development and recruitment to the region. For examples look no further than Riverfront Park, the Clinton Presidential Park, War Memorial Park, Murray Park and MacArthur Park.
With a declining sales tax base, the city of Little Rock faces some tough challenges in regard to future funding of our parks. Currently, parks are funded through the city's general fund. As a result, whenever there is a budget shortfall, the parks budget is one of the first items on the chopping block. This system means Little Rock may see an overall decline in quality of city parks as projected city revenues continue to lag. When the quality of city parks diminishes, so does quality of life. Crime can go up and economic investment can go down. Just ask other cities that have learned valuable lessons on what happens when parks are no longer among a city's top priorities.
What the parks need is a dedicated funding source — such as dedicated revenue bonds or a short-term sales tax. North Little Rock dedicates a penny of its advertising and promotion tax to its parks, and the result can be seen in its amenities, like the new baseball complex going up in Burns Park. Until such a source is identified and secured, the quality of our parks could erode to a point of no return, taking with it unrealized economic development opportunities, tourism attractions, healthy lifestyle options, and overall quality of life for residents in Little Rock.
Jordan Johnson is a community advocate and a vice president at CJRW. He also serves as a Little Rock Parks commissioner.
Note: To read the entire Native's Guide issue, go here.
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