By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
As voters where casting their ballots, the Wood County Park District board was holding its monthly meeting in the Bradner Preserve.
It was a perfect day to be in a park. Sun was shining. Trees were budding.
The park board was hoping that feeling would continue into the evening when the votes were counted. “I’m cautiously optimistic,” said park board president Denny Parish.
There was no need for caution, since the voters showed that they supported the county park district’s mission by approving the 1-mill renewal levy by 74 percent. The unofficial count was 14,462 to 5,207.
The park board was worried of other financial competition on Tuesday’s ballot.
“We were concerned there would be several financial issues on the ballot,” Parish said. “But it’s obvious tonight that people who support the parks, support the parks.”
The key to such overwhelming support could have been that the park district stuck with its 1-mill levy, rather than increasing its millage. For the last decade, the levy has generated about $2.8 million a year. That amount is expected to grow to $3 million a year because of new construction in the county.
Or it could have been all the park district offers for residents. The county park district has grown to 20 different parks, with 1,125 acres, open 365 days a year.
“I think it’s just the good work that the people I work with everyday do for the parks,” said Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger.
The park district may have also won such support by showing voters that it listens to their suggestions. Based on resident requests, new programming has been added – both educational and adventure activities, Munger said.
“Everybody likes what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ll keep listening to the public to see what they want to see for their parks.”
Park district adventure activities include archery, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, geo-caching, hunting, rock rappelling, bicycling and bouldering.
Programs are offered throughout the year, including classes on wildlife, bird migration, nature photography, stream studies, fire building, seed cleaning, beekeeping, trees, yoga, tai chi and camping. There are also full moon walks, senior nature hikes, wildflower walks, and summer nature camps.
The park district also shares its wealth, with small community parks in the county. The district awards $100,000 a year to local parks for such items as playground equipment, restrooms, or ADA accommodations.
During the last several years, the park district has focused funding on land acquisitions. But that focus is about to shift. “I think we’re looking at a maintenance phase,” Munger said.
But don’t think the park district won’t continue to grow – it’s just that they will do so with different funding sources like grants.
“I wouldn’t say we’re going to sit back on our laurels,” Munger said.
And now the park district can start planning for the future, Parish said.
The Wood County Park District currently has 20 sites throughout the county, including Adam Phillips Pond, Baldwin Woods Preserve, Bradner Preserve, Beaver Creek Preserve, Black Swamp Preserve, Buttonwood Recreation Area, Carter Historic Farm, Cedar Creeks Preserve, Fuller Preserve, William Henry Harrison Park, W.W. Knight Preserve, Otsego Park, Reuthinger Memorial Preserve, Sawyer Quarry Nature Preserve, Slippery Elm Trail, Rudolph Savanna Area, Cricket Frog Cove Area, Wood County Historical Center, Zimmerman School, and the park district headquarters.
Both Munger and Parish were grateful to the voters for their support.
“I want to thank the voters of Wood County for the continued support of the Wood County Parks,” Parish said.
“I’m just grateful the voters of Wood County have responded with such support,” Munger said.