As fathers, we spend our Saturdays watching boys and girls run across the grass of a neighborhood park and bounding up the stairs of the play structure before hurtling their tiny bodies down the slide. The benefits local parks provide to our families are clear — fun, healthy opportunities to breathe fresh air, get exercise and connect with friends and neighbors.
We also serve on the city of Sacramento Parks and Recreation Commission and see first-hand that none of this comes easily. The department’s 300 full-time employees have done yeoman’s work to keep up with an expanding park system. Through wise investment and generosity, our city has been blessed with 3,400 acres of parkland, double what it had a decade ago, including more than 200 playgrounds, 250 sports fields and courts and nearly 100 miles of trails.
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Measure U has been a boon to our parks. It has nearly doubled the number of maintenance employees, increasing the frequency of restroom cleaning, trash pickup and weeding. But services still fall short of pre-recession levels. We cannot tell you how often we hear complaints about the grass being too long for young children.
The expanded Measure U on the Tuesday ballot could give the City Council the money for weekly mowing and expanded weed treatment that would solve this problem once and for all.
Public safety is clearly a top priority in the community. Measure U has also allowed the parks department to add five rangers, bringing the total to nine.
The city could also use money from the expanded Measure U to expand popular community programs, including movie nights that draw hundreds on summer evenings. We need more opportunities such as the annual community service day at Gardenland Park, where neighbors worked on the grounds while their children played in a bounce house and shot hoops on a recently renovated, Kings-branded basketball court. The community association provided a meal and a swap of donated freshly grown produce.
By developing a feeling of ownership and partnership, we can create better parks, but more importantly, more connected and safer neighborhoods. By investing wisely in community development and partnering with existing organizations, we can make those dollars go further. But we need those Measure U dollars to provide support for volunteers.
There is no shortage of ways we can improve city services. We hear great suggestions all the time. What we never hear, however, is anyone suggesting that our parks are too well maintained, that our pools are open too many hours or that we have too many park rangers.
For our kids, our families, our parks and our communities, we urge a “yes” vote on Measure U.