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October 01, 2010  BY Bob McDavid
Mayor Bob McDavid mayor@gocolumbiamo.com

Mayor Bob McDavid mayor@gocolumbiamo.com

On Nov. 2, Columbia voters will have the opportunity to renew the one-eighth cent Park Sales Tax by approving Proposition 1.

As the election approaches, citizens will be contemplating the benefits the sales tax revenue has brought to our city: environmental, recreational, aesthetic and quality of life. In addition to those benefits, Columbians should consider the positive economic impact the Park Sales Tax has on our community.

Columbia is a sports destination, which enriches the community in so many ways. The Show-Me State Games said in a report celebrating its 25-year anniversary that the annual economic impact to the Columbia area exceeds $25 million. To host this event, Columbia needs to offer soccer, football, baseball and softball fields; horseshoe, pickle ball and tennis courts; areas for archery; an indoor swimming pool; an outdoor swimming lake; gymnasium; and disc golf courses. Without the Park Sales Tax, it would be difficult to develop or keep up these types of recreation facilities, which could impact this valuable partnership.

Columbia has hosted many other state, regional and area sports tournaments, bringing much-needed revenue to local merchants. In 2008, Boone County Baseball reported that its local tournaments resulted in more than 2,400 hotel stays with more than 30,000 participants and fans. In 2010, the Missouri Valley USTA used 38 tennis courts in Columbia to host a tournament. The addition of six new tennis courts and the renovation of the Cosmo Park and Fairview Park tennis courts — all funded in whole or part by the Park Sales Tax — enabled Columbia to have enough quality facilities to be the host city for the tournament.

To host even more regional, state and national tournaments, we need to build more ball fields at Atkins Park. We can’t do this unless the Park Sales Tax is renewed, and I don’t want Columbia to miss this opportunity.

Studies show that parks also help keep and attract potential employers. Businesses rank proximity to parks and open space high in their site selection. State Farm’s decision to stay and, more recently, IBM’s selection of Columbia for its new service center show that these companies value the quality-of-life benefits of parks, trails and recreation facilities.

During a five-year period, the one-eighth cent Park Sales Tax is projected to generate about $12 million. If approved, about $10 million of this revenue is slated for parks infrastructure improvements, maintenance and new development and would provide employment and continue to stimulate the local economy.

The Park Sales Tax is the only dedicated funding source the city of Columbia has for preserving green space. Although the environmental benefits of green space are well known, there are financial benefits as well. Green space reduces the need for storm water infrastructure, reduces energy costs in urban areas and increases property values for surrounding homes. In the past 20 years, Columbia’s city limits have increased by 30 percent. Without Park Sales Tax funding, Columbia runs the risk of having outward rings of development with little green space preserved.

Historically, Columbia citizens have treasured and supported their park system. Voters first approved the Park Sales Tax in 2000 and extended it in 2005. Eighty-seven percent of our citizens use city-owned parks, and 95 percent of users feel they are well maintained. We have a park and trail system to be proud of. Let’s take care of what we’ve enjoyed and protect our parks for our children and grandchildren.

The Park Sales Tax strengthens our local economy and improves our quality of life. I urge Columbia citizens to renew the Park Sales Tax on Nov. 2 by voting yes on Proposition 1.

Facts about the Park Sales Tax and a list of proposed projects can be found online at www.GoColumbiaMo.com.