AMONG the government agencies that had to tighten their belts because of the budget crunch of the past few years, the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department ranks at the top of those having to make do with much less.
Beginning late in Mayor Fred Armstrong’s administration, the department has had to forgo hundreds of thousands of dollars in needed capital investments and improvements.
The city’s fiscal outlook has improved in recent times but not enough to make up for the skipped investments, and hopes for major initiatives are dependent on additional funding from sources outside the public sector.
Into this funding void has stepped the Park Foundation, which has sought to tap private sector resources in maintaining and developing initiatives that like those in the past have given this community an unrivaled quality of life.
This private sector outreach was demonstrated most recently when the foundation successfully completed a $1 million fund drive to expand and improve the city’s remarkable People Trail system.
Fortunately, park supporters have chosen not to rest on their laurels after that accomplishment. The foundation has now embarked on a somewhat more modest but equally important mission to raise at least $300,000 to fund improvements at four neighborhood parks.
The latest effort is a collaboration of the foundation with city government and two other foundations — the Tony Stewart Foundation and Carter’s Kids — that will target the following local parks: Pence Street, Morningside, Ninth Street and Mead Village.
The intent is to upgrade the facilities so that they will be handicap accessible.
The direct involvement of city government with private entities is a heartening affirmation of this community’s long-standing commitment to achieving things through a partnership of the public and private sectors. This one not only embodies that partnership but demonstrates creative approaches in bringing it about.
The Tony Stewart Foundation’s support of the Mead Village project stems in part from the Columbus native’s childhood growing up in that neighborhood and his foundation’s emphasis on supporting children with critical and chronic illnesses.
Carter’s Kids is a nonprofit organization founded by celebrity carpenter Carter Oosterhouse, which has provided support to communities in developing safe playgrounds.
While the emphasis on this particular venture is focused on making four neighborhood parks more accessible, the Park Foundation’s efforts are a continuance of a commitment to provide local residents with outstanding park facilities and programs.
Although these efforts were funded in large part through tax funds, there has also been an unprecedented involvement from private sources, such as the multimillion dollar renovation and expansion of Mill Race Park in the early 1990s that was funded largely through private sector donations.
It’s good to see that this involvement is ongoing and promises to sustain a high quality of life for this and future generations.