While it still needs the final stamp of approval at City Council, the Budget Committee has reversed a proposed cut to park maintenance and gardens in the 2017 budget. As highlighted in a Park People blog post last month, the proposed operating budget for Parks, Forestry and Recreation included reversing previous funding allocated to enhanced maintenance in parks at high-use times, urban agriculture, and horticulture. This would have seen $640,000 cut from the budget.
In that blog post, we argued that as our city grows in population and density—which causes extra strain on our parks—the City also needs to continue to grow the parks budget to ensure we have the money to maintain our parks properly.
Cutting this funding to park maintenance and gardens was also significant because it was amongst the first operational funding that had been approved towards the recommendations in the 2013 Parks Plan—a plan that was meant to take us to 2017. Cancelling investments towards this plan would have sent the wrong message.
We made all these points clear in our blog post, but also in a letter that Park People sent to each member of the City’s Budget Committee. We want to thank anyone that wrote into their councillor to express their support, and also to the Budget Committee members themselves for voting to reinstate this funding.
While it is great to see this money reinvested in keeping our parks beautiful and clean, it does not go far enough. In their budget notes, City staff outline the increasing pressures on our park system as more people move into our city (especially downtown), more activities happen in parks, and new parks open with more complex designs. The cost of maintaining our parks is rising each year because of these factors and we need to ensure we continue to invest in park operations and maintenance to meet these challenges.
City Council will debate the City’s operating and capital budgets at their meeting on February 15 and 16, 2017.