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Pioneer Editorial: Restoring park funds welcomed

The Bemidji City Council made a turnaround on Monday in deciding to restore $18,000 to the city budget to help maintain parks.

It was a good decision, one that should be applauded.

A concern, however, is whether it is enough. And, will city parks maintenance always be right on the edge - the first thing cut the next time around?

The city made a pledge to its citizens several years ago when asking for a half-cent city sales tax to make parks and trails investments in the city to the tune of $9.8 million. It presented a project list to spend that money, a pledge since broken as the lion's share of the money went to renovating Diamond Point Park. Granted, it has become the city's signature park and is outstanding, but the pledge was to invest in parks and trails in each neighborhood of the city.

Now major improvements are planned for the city softball area by the curling club, which when taken with the Diamond Point Park project, will nearly exhaust the $9.8 million. Many neighborhoods are left without parks or with parks in poor repair.

While pledging to invest in parks, the assumption was that the city would change its prior habits and actually maintain its new investments. Two weeks ago, that pledge was broken with budget cuts that would deeply affect city parks - both their appearance and the usage of them, with Labor Day planned to be the last day.

The infusion of liquor store profits to parks maintenance is appreciated and will help Bemidji's effort to market itself as the first city on the Mississippi, a city of parks and trees.

The council should work on a game plan to keep maintaining its valuable investments. At one time, there was talk of an adopt-a-park program, with community clubs volunteering to help with maintained. That effort should be redoubled. We don't expect clubs to mow every week or haul garbage cans out, but club members can police the grounds and report any breakage or vandalism.

Perhaps summer youth programs could be tapped to aid in maintenance, or church groups. It's one community and we should all share in keeping it in top shape.

But the city has a key role in providing the major maintenance, and that pledge was restored Monday through innovative funding in tough budget times.