A committee of local citizens is seeking signatures for a petition to let voters decide on a nickel tax to raise funds for Murray-Calloway County Parks.
Parks Director Tab Brockman said a group of six people, known as People for Our Parks, filed a referendum according to requirements in KRS Statute 97.590.
This has brought about a petition that requires 3,039 signatures, which is 10 percent of the number of registered voters in the last mayoral election.
If the signatures are obtained, then the voters will get the choice on whether a nickel tax on every $100 will be paid by Calloway County property owners on their tax bills to raise funds for the parks.
“I’m very glad these folks got this started,” Brockman said. “People don’t understand the state of the infrastructure.”
Brockman said the joint city and county budget of $290,000 for the parks is not enough to maintain areas of the parks like the roads, ballparks, the pool and care of the trees.
The roads and parking lots have not had funds maintained properly since 2000 and the park pool loses thousands of gallons of water every day, Brockman said.
“This touches Murray State students because they are part of the community and use the park for things like intramural sports, walking, jogging and taking their dogs,” Brockman said.
There are three parks in Murray: Central, Chestnut and Bee Creek, which have a combined area of 164 acres.
Stacie Bogard, sophomore from Murray, said she and her sisters often bring their children and dogs to enjoy the parks when the weather is nice.
Bogard said she was unaware of the proposed tax but said she would be in favor of it.
“I don’t think it’d be a bad idea at all; the parks could use (the money),” Bogard said.
Squire Babcock, associate professor of English, said he doesn’t see any other way to generate funds for the parks and that a nickel on every $100 sounds like a good deal.
“My daughter benefits greatly from the Playhouse in the Park,” Babcock said. “The parks are a great resource in this community.”
The petitions are available for signing at several locations in the city of Murray including the Parks office, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and City Hall. Founding members of People for Our Parks include Interim President Tim Miller, several local business owners and concerned citizens.
Murray State alumna and retired employee, Donna Herndon, is one of the founding committee members and has strong feelings about the parks.
“We all feel like the parks are a part of our community and they are on life support right now,” Herndon said. “It’s been sad to see how little funds are available. They have just been Band-Aids for what is needed. We have to get serious about taking care of the facilities.”
Herndon, who has long-standing family ties in the area, has three grandchildren that are currently students at the University.
She said she has often seen Murray State students enjoying the park, whether as a quiet place for a meal or to just get away.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback from people,” Herndon said. “I think that it’s an investment in our children I hope all of us are willing to make. We want to get it on the ballot so we can decide to make it a priority.”
Story by Lori Allen, Staff writer