This isn’t just a rant from a Sioux Falls government blogger, many people from the business sector, private property owners and journalists have reached out to me and agree that selling our parks off is a precedent that we will never be able to reverse;
In the early days of Mayor Paul TenHaken’s administration, the new mayor challenged each department head to set stretch goals.
As he put it, “throw the buoy way out there,” said Don Kearney, the city’s director of parks and recreation.
In the case of the Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation Department, that meant an eight-digit reach: Earn $10 million in private support for the department by 2022.
“We thought we could do $7 million, but we increased it to $10 million, and now we’ve exceeded that,” Kearney said.
“And we could double that to over $20 million by the end of the year.”
Don’t misunderstand me, I am all for private donations to help our parks system, and I am not even opposed to modest placards appearing in our parks honoring those who give, but when a private donation is given, it should be put towards the parks general fund to be spent on our greatest parks needs. One thing I have advocated for is 24/7 bike trail access and solar lighting in the darker parts of the trail.
Some other contributions to our parks are also wonderful ways to give;
Other contributions came in the form of land, such as an extension of the west-side Family Park.
Labor counts too – including from volunteers and inmates. Kearney estimates their help has saved the city more than $300,000 over the past few years.
But this is where donations get sticky;
Last year, the Sioux Falls Parks Foundation was organized as an affiliate of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation.
“There’s a lot of interest,” said Jennifer Kirby, who chairs the foundation’s advisory board. “It all comes down to finding the actual project that will mesh with a donor’s passion.”
Her group held an informational event for donors last month and has been meeting individually to gauge interest in specific projects.
While I get it that donors have a certain level of privacy, that privacy should go all the way to the end with NOT plastering our parks with donor signs. A private foundation meeting secretly with donors to determine how our parks are being shaped is not acceptable. The taxpayers of Sioux Falls are the main donor to our parks system, we also foot the operational expenses of the employees salaries and park maintenance. The taxpayers are the main owners of our public parks and they should be in on the discussion on how to use donor’s money, which should be given anonymously and modestly.
It was disheartening but not surprising that our mayor is pushing to sell off our parks like they are cars in a NASCAR race.