By editorial board • 

City parks demand stronger commitment

There’s nothing wrong with McMinnville parks that $87,000 a year wouldn’t cure. Unfortunately, the money simply isn’t there — at least not in the city’s public works budget or parent general fund budget, city officials tell us.

Oh well, they say. Whaddya gonna do?

We’re sorry, but that kind of thinking just isn’t satisfactory going forward.

McMinnville’s population is expanding, spurring demand for more park facilities. And the city is using entirely different funding channels to provide them, working through an entirely different department — Parks & Recreation. 

It makes no sense to us to have park maintenance farmed out to Public Works, which, understandably, considers roadbuilding a higher priority. Moving it under the umbrella of Parks & Recreation would improve both priority-setting and coordination.

However, that’s not the issue immediately at hand.

Some local parks have been plagued with overgrown weeds and rusting playground equipment. That needs to be addressed forthwith, through whatever channels are available.

While it’s charitable of local residents to roll up their sleeves and help tackle the job themselves, as detailed in a recent front-page story, park maintenance is a basic city responsibility.

The city can find tens of millions of dollars to spend in other ways, so lack of money isn’t the explanation. The root problem is shortchanging our park system in favor of competing priorities.

McMinnville’s public works budget took an $87,000 hit during a round of budget cuts dictated in 2013. The deficit had to be absorbed somewhere, and park beautification must have seemed more a luxury than necessity, at least in comparative terms.

Of course, problems only grow larger when ignored. City work crews still face tight budgets, five years later. The difference is, now they also deal with a backlog of park maintenance needs.

Adding insult to injury, the city was just wrapping up an ambitious, high-visibility park development program at the time, thanks to a bond issue with powerful citizen support.

Lucy and Darrell King, who live near the Westside Bicycle/Pedestrian Greenway, between Baker Creek and Wallace roads, periodically tend to patches of dying vegetation. Instead of meaningful city attention, they also pull weeds and care for needy trees and shrubs.

The city heaps them with praise in response, but also with rationalizations for its own neglect, which are less welcome.

“They always tell me the same thing,” Lucy said. “They wish they could do it, but they just don’t have enough people and money ...”

It’s time the city quit dispensing excuses and started producing some action on the ground.

The Kings and like-minded citizens deserve more than attaboys. They merit a serious commitment to the cause.

McMinnville is blessed with a wonderful park system, but it’s in dire need of better upkeep.

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