The trivia question for the day is how many parks does Shreveport have?
How bout 63?
And 16 of these have fully operational recreation centers.
Add to this 2 golf courses, 5 swimming pools, 7 spray grounds, 46 playgrounds, and Riverview Park.
But this not all that the Shreveport Parks and Recreation Department (SPAR) maintains.
Think grounds maintenance for 4 cemeteries, 300 rose/flower beds, 4 boat launches, Clyde Fant Parkway, and the adjacent bike/jogging trail.
But as Bugs Bunny would say, “that’s not all folks!”
SPAR also maintains Independence Stadium, the Municipal Auditorium, 126 city-owned properties, and 52 city-owned facilities. Additionally SPAR is responsible for housekeeping functions of 34 city-owned facilities.
So much for just thinking that SPAR runs athletic programs.
SPAR’s workload could decrease, if only slightly, in the near future. Since late 2015, the city has been inactive negotiating to have the C. Bickham Dickson Park become part of the federal park system much like the Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Bossier City.
But back to the threshold question: does Shreveport has too many public parks?
Tree huggers will always say that there are never too many green spaces and recreational venues.
But what about the ever increasing costs for maintenance?
And what about population shifts that render the location of the parks to now be in low population areas?
Currently, SPAR does not have the capability to determine the utilization of each park. Add this needed info to the growing list of metrics that Shreveport’s Chief Technology Officer, once confirmed by the Shreveport city council, should tackle.
SPAR’s 2019 budget is $17.4 million dollars.
The city’s 2019 budget anticipates spending $6 million dollars of the estimated 2018 end of year reserves of $8 million.
Shreveport mayor Adrian Perkins and the new council need to make many budget amendments in the first quarter of this year to put the city on a more conservative budget.
Living within its means, as a city, may be a painful process.
But it is urgently needed.
Looking at options for the city parks is one starting point.
Maybe some parks should be closed.
Perhaps civic groups can assume park maintenance.
And perhaps corporate sponsorships can help underwrite these green spaces.
Parks are important for a city. However underused parks can be more of a drain on a city than a positive attribute.
(This article was published in The Inquisitor on Friday, January 11, 2019)