A fair share

Published 3:13 pm Sunday, December 2, 2007

By Staff
As Washington’s City Council reviews a draft of the city’s proposed recreation master plan, it should remember the final plan will have little, if any, value unless it’s implemented.
And implementing the recreation master plan is going to require that money be spent. Money, if it’s spent in a proper manner, for implementing the recreation master plan will be a good thing. Considering that the city doesn’t have an overabundance of revenue, it’s likely that expenditures the recreation master plan may call for will occur in phases, meaning elements of the plan will be implemented as the money for those elements becomes available.
In its final form, the recreation master plan will include a section on “unmet needs,” said Bob Harned with Hayes, Seay, Mattern and Mattern, the consulting firm hired to develop the recreation master plan. Unmet needs, for the most part, is a term for facilities, equipment and programs the Washington Parks and Recreation Department needs to fulfill its mission. Harned also said the recreation master plan will include a timeline for implementing the plan’s recommendations.
The public and city officials must keep in mind that having a timeline is one thing, but having the money to implement what the recreation master plan calls for is another thing. The city may have plenty of time, but little money to implement the plan once it is completed and presented to city officials.
There’s no doubt that more and better parks and recreation programs would be a good thing for the city and its residents in so many ways, including having places for children and adults to play. Happier, healthier city residents and others will make for a happier, healthier community.
Harned told council members that “growth will continue to put a burden on the facilities” the Parks and Recreation Department operates. He said that growth will require the city to spend more money to maintain and improve existing facilities and programs and add new facilities and programs to the department’s inventory. Those new programs and facilities will also require maintenance, he noted.
Harned is right. More and more people will use the city’s parks and recreational facilities and programs. Already, many of the people who use those facilities and programs are not city residents. They are people who live in Beaufort County but outside Washington. The number of people who use the city’s parks and recreation facilities and live outside the city will continue to grow, adding to the burden placed on those parks and recreation facilities.
For years, the city has tried to persuade Beaufort County to contribute its “fair share” to help pay for operating the city’s parks and recreation system. For years, the county has refused to pay that “fair share.”
To be sure, county residents who live outside the city but use its parks and recreational facilities will say they pay fees to do that. They do, but those fees, for the most part, are used by sports leagues to run their programs and not for upkeep and maintenance of the city-owned athletic facilities where those programs take place.
If people who are not city residents are going to continue to use city parks and recreational facilities and programs and increase the burden on those parks, facilities and programs, they should help bear the burden of providing the revenue to provide those parks, programs and facilities.
In theory, the city could restrict the use of its parks and recreation facilities to only city residents. Doing that would not be acting as a good neighbor.
There’s no question there will be more burdens placed on the city’s parks and recreation facilities by city residents and others in coming years.
There’s no question those “others” should pay their fair share when it comes to using the city’s parks and recreation facilities. They are already sharing in the use of those parks and recreation facilities.
It’s not a question of the city needing more money for its parks and recreation facilities. It’s about everyone who uses those parks and facilities paying a fair share for doing so.