Portage parks supporters excited about passage of levy

by MIKE SEVER RECORD-COURIER REPORTER Published:

It took six tries over nearly 20 years, but the Portage Park District now will have access to more funds for its operations.

Issue 10, a 0.5-mill, 10-year additional levy for the park district passed 12,172 to 10,289, according to complete but unofficial results from the Portage County Board of Elections.

The levy will bring in $1.63 million annually starting next year. It will cost the owner of a property with a $100,000 market value about $17.50 per year, or less than $1.50 per month.

Supporters gathered at the Rusty Nail in Twin Lakes were all smiles as election results came in. Votes in favor of the levy led from the outset, and by the third report, district Executive Director Chris Craycroft was beginning to agree it might win.

"I'm waiting for the final [report]. Been there, done that," she said of anticipating victory that didn't come.

Others weren't so hesitant. "We're in!" said Marilyn Sessions, a volunteer for the levy.

This was the district's sixth try for a levy since it was formed in 1991. Voters said "no" to levies in 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2008.

Craycroft credited the success to the campaign's well-organized and motivated committee. "We gotta give it up to an awesome committee and supporters. Everybody was working so hard," she said.

Currently, the district is operating on $99,500 per year, with its full-time director and two part-time maintenance employees to operate and manage 1,300 acres and 14 miles of hike and bike trails countywide.

About half of the budget, $45,000, comes from donations. Craycroft said many people were surprised by how little money the district had. "People finally realized the value of parks," she said.

The extra revenue will allow the district to maintain and repair its existing parks and trails and provide recreation and education programs; develop and open 835 acres currently closed to the public; and provide funds to match grants to create new trails to connect communities across the county.

The first tax money won't be received until spring 2015, giving the district time to plan how to develop those areas not open to the public, with lots of input from the public, Craycroft said.

But the first order of business will be "to fix our pickup truck," an early 1990s model, or "maybe get a new truck, buy some materials to fix our trails. Do some long-postponed maintenance" on parks and trails, she said.

Email: msever@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4154

Facebook: Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Twitter: @MikeSever_RC

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