After more than 35,000 petition signatures were gathered for the Fresno Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Initiative, former Mayor Ashley Swearengin said it is imperative that residents pack Fresno City Hall on Thursday, Aug. 9, to support placing the measure on the November 2018 ballot.

Ashley Swearengin, CEO of Fresno County Community Foundation, speaks to parks tax supporters at Radio Park in Fresno. (Myles Barker Photo/GV Wire)

“We have reviewed the matter enough, it is time to vote on this, and urge their support for moving this to the ballot in November of 2018,” Swearengin said Friday afternoon at a community-wide event held at Radio Park celebrating the success of the signature-gathering effort.  Nearly 100 people attended the event.

After three years of study and public input by parks boosters, Swearengin said, the Fresno City Council will take the matter up and decide whether to review it further or to place it on the ballot now.

$38 Million for Parks

The initiative is what many Fresno residents believe to be the solution to improve the city’s parks and recreation programs. A recent study found that Fresno ranks 94th out of the top 100 cities in the U.S. when it comes to parks access, acreage and investment – and Fresno was the worst in the country from 2013-2015.

If approved, the initiative will provide a continuous local funding source for Fresno parks through an additional 3/8-cent sales tax in the city of Fresno. It would raise an estimated $38 million per year and cost the average Fresno household about $39 per year, or $3.25 per month. Advocates say funding parks maintenance and improvements through a sales tax increment would ensure visitors and non-city residents pay their fair share.

Advocates Promote Benefits

Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) said parks are critical to the well being of any community. As a physician, he sees them as a prescription for better health.

“Instead of starting people on medication, why do we not tell them to spend time outside, to spend time getting exercise, and to enjoy the mental health and physical benefits that we accrue by just being outside,” he said.

Dr. Venise Curry said parks have a tremendous power that benefits everyone.

“We are all a part of this journey, and I hope that we will stay connected in this journey and make sure that every Fresnan has the opportunity to improve their health, and one of the best ways they can do that is to invest in parks for all,” Curry said.

Fresno resident Mary LaFollette said quality parks are vitally important to a community’s well-being.

“It is quality of life that we must have and it is also the quality of life that people who are looking to relocate will look for,” she said.

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