WAPAKONETA — The Heritage Trails Park District held a public meeting Tuesday to inform the public about its intent to expand the park district in Auglaize County and invite residents to volunteer for the cause.
Kevin Haver, the director of the Johnny Appleseed Park District in Allen County, spoke to a crowd of about 20 on what it takes to be a successful park district and getting it off the ground.
It is hard to measure the value of a park district,” Haver said. “There are many components to that.”
Haver told the crowd that research has shown that properties located within two blocks of a park district increase in property value by about 11 percent to 18 percent.
However, Haver said you have to look beyond money values.
“The actual experiences you gain can’t be measured,” Haver said. “With my grandkids, the things we do at the parks can’t be measured. Those things stick in their heads. I can’t tell you how many times people have approached me and told me their granddaughter caught their first fish in the park or other stories like that.”
Haver told the crowd that with a 0.75 mill property tax levy, the district has largely been able to secure the grants it needs to run its 12 parks by using the money for matching funds to secure other grants. He said the park district had nearly 700,000 visitors in 2012 alone.
Allison Brady, the executive director of Heritage Trails, said they thought it was important to hear Haver as the park district in in its infant stages in Auglaize County.
“A successful park district is one that is funded by the individuals that live in the county,” Brady said. “Heritage Trails is a baby district compared to Johnny Appleseed. We have one part-time staff member and roughly $15,ooo income annually, but we are looking seriously at taking that next step through a ballot initiative.”
Heritage Board President Dave Stillwell said the board had just approved to put an initiative on the ballot in May to ask voters to support a 0.6 mill property tax. The tax would generate roughly $300,000 annually for the park district.
“We’ve known all along that we would eventually want to take the next step,” Stillwell said. “Kevin has been a great mentor and we have had great support from the county commissioners.”
Haver said Auglaize County had great potential and that voters needed to take into consideration what could be done with only a 0.6 mill levy. A 0.6 levy would cost a homeowner with a $100,000 home about $21 per year.
“I took my wife to the movies and I was surprised to find out that two tickets were $21,” Haver said. “That same amount would help fund a park district for a year and a half.”
Brady said a poll had been taken by a group of Wright State University grad students for a project and results were favorable, as polling showed two-thirds of those polled said they would support the levy. Haver said his top piece of advice would be for all park advocates to learn the ins and outs of the levy, tell the truth to voters, and to not make promises that they couldn’t keep.
The group plans to have another meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 in an effort to attract more volunteers.