Parks Should Be Reshaped Into A Commission Form

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

If elected mayor, I plan to restructure the parks and recreations into a commission form. This can be achieved very easily since it has a board.

What is a park district you ask? Wiki has it as a form of local special-purpose district for providing public parks and recreation in or near its geographic boundaries. Some park districts also own or maintain related cultural facilities such as monuments, zoos, sports venues, music venues, or museums.

The goal of establishing a system of parks and recreation is both a challenging and noble undertaking. It presents an opportunity for the members of a community to demonstrate their foresightedness and to leave a legacy of open space and the community spirit with which to manage it properly.

The legislative authority for park districts is not designed to promote the private or parochial needs of a few. Rather those taking up the challenge of beginning a park district must look to the needs of the entire community and thereby solicit its support.

At this time in Chattanooga, parks and recreation fall under the city of Chattanooga Department of Youth and Family Development. If it is switched to a commission style, then it will allow for more accountability and the freedom to raise funds and go after more grants. This will also allow a restructuring of the city's 18 neighborhood Youth and Family Development Centers.

It is time we invest more in our recreational centers because the parks and recreation facilities are amenities that increase property values, enhance the desirability of the community, and in a relatively brief period pay their own way.

Why the need to restructure" Well, the main issue is more accountability. It will not only combine the city's Youth and Family development with the city’s Greenway Advisory Board and place Parks and Open spaces under their control. It eliminates the need for the Greenway advisory board that deals with the city’s golf course. It will combine the office of early learning and turn it into a program-based structure. It will also eliminate the need for the Office of Resilience. It allows for people to have more input on what they want in their communities. It will give the community associations a place to meet and maybe in the future can have a small police precinct after the department gets restructured. This would allow money to be divested from the police department and placed into the community. But the police would have a different job within the community - an approach that would make them become part of it as well.

The Board of Commissioners has the power to levy and collect taxes, to issue bonds, and spend money to acquire acreage, develop and maintain facilities, and establish recreation programs. These are the functions of this board, completely independent of the city, school, and other governmental units. Whereas the City Council has diverse responsibilities, the park and recreation function is the primary function of the park district.

This is important well because the city has 106 park sites in its limits that include over 800 acres. Two golf courses, three dog parks, 18 neighborhood Youth and Family Development Centers, eight public swimming pools, 73 tennis courts throughout the city, 26 courts at the  Champions Club Tennis Complex, the Chattown SkatePark, and the Chattanooga Fitness Center. The city also maintains 11 multiple fields at the city's large complexes at Warner Park, the Summit of Softball, Tyner Recreation Area, Lakeside Recreation Area, and Dupont-North River Area. And lastly, they have a bit over 35 miles of greenways and trails.

Now, unlike other Park Commissions that usually get their funding by levying and collecting taxes, ours would assume the existing park and recreation budget of $12.16 million. And every year the Park Commission would have to present a budget for approval to the City Council.

My ultimate goal is to give the government back to the people of Chattanooga and allow their voices to be heard.

Chris Dahl

Candidate for mayor of Chattanooga 


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