More city parks, recreation attention comes with a cost

The city of Williamsport owns four parks – Memorial Park, Brandon Park, Shaw Place Park and Young’s Woods Park.

The city spends $302,000 on recreation, less than 2 percent of its budget. The neighboring borough of Montoursville spends $334,169 annually on parks and recreation. The nearby city of Sunbury spends $592,000 annually.

Consultants for the city recently presented a master parks improvement plan to City Council which underscored the need for more city government support of parks and recreation.

They said greater support of parks and recreation would make the city more attractive as an employment and living destination for those looking to locate in an area with a strong natural gas industry, two colleges, several school districts and a major medical center.

They believe a support figure closer to $500,000 a year for the next three years is necessary to engineer a parks and recreation renaissance for Williamsport.

We can’t disagree with any of that. No one wants to see the Brandon Park Bandshell fall apart, a reality that is near, according to the report. No one wants to see tennis courts full of cracks.

What everyone wants to see are safe, well-maintained places to play, multi-faceted recreational opportunities, and walking and bike paths that accentuate the natural beauty of our city and area.

But even preservation of natural beauty comes with a cost attached. And the city’s general fund is short on dollars to provide the services local government is obligated to provide.

Other accounts that could be used to fund such work are not as healthy as they once were.

The city is planning $500,000 in improvements to Brandon Park, part of it done through a grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The consultants and city government officials need to push hard for more state grants to fund additional needed parks and recreation improvements in Williamsport. The competition for these grants is tough, but we would imagine that’s why consultants were hired.

There is nothing wrong with the stated goal. The increased priority on parks and recreation is a worthy sentiment.

But those kinds of dollars are hard to find in a budget that struggles to pay for desired levels of police and fire protection and other essential city services.

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