County Park District seeks .25-mill levy
LISBON — Over the years the Columbiana County Park District has been like “The Little Engine That Could.”
The district started in the 1970s with 250-acre Scenic Vista Park in Center Township, and despite very little in the way of reliable financial resources, expanded operations by adding the popular 12-mile Little Beaver Creek Greenway Trail in 2000. Then about 10 years ago the Hellbender Bluff Park in Madison Township, which encompasses more than 800 acres, was added.
Much of this has been achieved through the efforts of unpaid board members and volunteers and three part-time employees. The board has also become quite adept over the years at leveraging what funds they have been able to secure to obtain large federal and state grants for projects and improvements.
In 2011, the park district received $500,000 in oil and gas lease money, which was used mostly to purchase equipment and on projects, including repaving portions of the Greenway Trail.
The lease money is expected to run out in three years, and the park district’s only other source of money will be the $15,000 in state Local Government Funds it receives annually through the county. This is in addition to about $60,000 received every two years through an Ohio Department of Transportation program, but that money can only be spent on park roads or parking lots.
As a result, the park board is seeking a larger, more permanent pot of money by asking voters in the Nov. 3 election to approve a five-year 0.25-mill levy that will raise an estimated $519,500 per year. The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $8.75 a year in property taxes.
Board chairman Tom Butch said they have accomplished much with some luck, hard work but little local funding. The park district now needs a permanent large pot of money it can use to not only maintain what already exists but generate the extra funding needed to make improvements and take on new projects.
“The park district’s board of directors has been discussing a levy for years, and we decided that the time is now with an unprecedented increase in usage of the Greenway Trail and our two county park,” he said.
While the board understand many are experiencing financial difficulties, Butch pointed out the cost to the average homeowner would be four coffees a year.
If the levy passes, they would like to use some of the money to hire a full-time park manager, with the rest going to fund various improvements for the parks and the Greenway Trail.
“The bike trail is now 20 years old and stormwater issues are taking a toll on the trail,” and addressing these problems will be expensive, he said.
Other trail projects include continuing with efforts to extend the trail to the Ohio River near East Liverpool, exploring adding a connector trail from Leetonia to Columbiana, and adding parking lot lighting and a shelter.
At Scenic Vista Park, the board would like to use the funds to complete the disc golf course, add trails and make pavilion improvements. At Hellbender Bluff Park, the board wants to upgrade the bicycle pump track, install a play area and install interpretative signage.