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Voters Show Support for Parks, Conservation

Columbus, Ohio, one of several cities approving parks funding

Columbus, Ohio, one of several cities approving parks funding

Yesterday capped off a record-breaking year for voters demonstrating support for open space ballot measures, despite the current economic situation. With help from TPL’s Andrew DuMoulin in the Conservation Finance program, we’ve got the following information.

On November 4th, voters backed 62 of 87 (71%) conservation finance ballot measures, which will generate a single-day record of $7.3 billion in new funding for parks and open space lands.  Overall in 2008, voters approved 88 measures totaling $8.4 billion in new public funding for land conservation, a single year record.  The approval rate for 2008 was 71% topping the 66% approval rate for 2007 and just below the 74% rate for 2006.  The record setting amount of funding for 2008 can largely be attributed to the Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment, which totaled $5.5 billion (a single measure record). The Minnesota measure will fund everything from wildlife habitat protection to city parks. Among the other significant measures yesterday (not necessarily all cities) for land acquistion were:

  • East Bay Regional Park District (CA): A $500 million bond measure that received 71% support
  • Hillsborough County, Florida: A $200 million bond measure that received 78% support
  • Hunterdon County, New Jersey: An extension of the county’ 3-cent property tax for 20 years, which will generate $152 million
  • Community Preservation Act elections in Massachusetts — 7 of 8 measures were approved, bringing the total of communities statewide that have adopted CPA to 140; and
  • Blaine County, ID: A 2-year property tax for open space.

Then there’s a few ballot measures in cities that will fund either capital improvements or increases in maintenance funds. Milwaukee passed a sales tax increase, that now needs approval of the state legislatures, to increase funding for park maintenance. Seattle appears to have passed a $146 million measure for a continued property tax for capital improvements and new parks, Columbus, Ohio $124 million and Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, N.C.) $250 million bond for parks and recreation.

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