Sustain Charlotte and supporters call on county for park and recreation funding

052324 BOCC budget hearing

On Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners held its second annual budget public hearing (City Council’s budget public hearing was last week). We were joined by 10 people who spoke or attended in solidarity to fully fund Park & Recreation which has been chronically underfunded and overshadowed. We spoke about the importance of acquiring land, maintaining facilities, and increasing staff numbers.

It was a tremendous showing of appreciation for our Park & Recreation system. And we know there are so many more of you in our community who value and support our parks, greenways, and nature preserves. We can’t thank you enough for signing our Park & Recreation budget petition and standing with us either in person or in spirit on Thursday.

The proposed budget will go to a straw vote on May 30 and potential adoption on June 4 – we’ll let you know how these meetings go. In the meantime, check out the statement our Advocacy Manager Hope Wright delivered to the county commission. You can read below or watch it at this link [beginning at 32:00].

052324 Hope at BOCC

Hope Wright speaks on behalf of Sustain Charlotte at the county budget hearing.

Good evening, Mecklenburg County Commissioners,

I am here this evening speaking on behalf of Sustain Charlotte.

First, I want to thank you for helping grow our park and recreation system by allocating $50M for land acquisition in each of the last two budget cycles. This is a triumph that the entire county will benefit from for years to come.

Let’s keep that going! I trust you have all taken time to read through the Park & Recreation budget petition Sustain Charlotte sent you at the end of April. I will be sending you an update via email early next week, which includes the signatures of even more residents. In short, nearly 1350 Mecklenburg County residents have signed the petition urging you to:

  1. Support all of the staff-recommended CIP FY2029 projects. 
  2. Support funding for new staff positions as identified in the MeckPlaybook and requested by staff for FY2025.
  3. Sustain momentum for land acquisition by budgeting at least $50M to increase land available for additional parks, greenways, nature preserves, and recreation centers.
  4. Increase funding for maintenance of Park and Recreation properties, both developed and undeveloped.

We are pleased to see that the proposed CIP and annual budgets include almost all of these requests with the exception of the Sugar Creek Greenway construction, which we look forward to seeing in next year’s CIP budget. In such a fiscally tight year, we are grateful that you were able to include all but one of Park & Recreation’s CIP requests and fund 15 new positions to address critical maintenance needs throughout the system in the annual budget. 

However, we noticed that some requested administrative staff are not funded and only $4M of staff’s requested $5M for maintenance is being proposed. We urge you to add this critical administrative staff and increase maintenance funding to $5M, if not $9M as the Park and Recreation Commission is requesting. 

We also understand that the proposed budget includes a total of $46.7M for land acquisition and appreciate the constraints you face this year, but we implore you to find the extra $3.3M required to maintain at least $50M and continue this important work at the same speed.

Just yesterday, the annual study by The Trust for Public Land was released, and since last year it showed that Mecklenburg County’s ParkScore has dropped from 85 to 87. We continue to lag in per capita spending on parks, percentage of residents within a 10-minute walk of a park, and park space by neighborhood/ethnicity.

As you know, increasing our investment in Park & Recreation will not only improve access for more residents but will benefit our community’s health, economy, environment, and quality of life.

In short, the value of parks and recreation far outweighs the dollars invested. 

Please continue to grow our investment so everyone in our community can enjoy these benefits. 

Thank you.

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