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Supporters and opponents speak out about Parks and Trails Bond

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Oct 12 2012 07:53:53 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Proponents of the Parks and Trails Bond say the bond is an investment in quality of life.

"Bozeman is going to grow again, we know that and we want to make sure that when it does we've had the foresight and knowledge to take land and and make it into parks that people will enjoy for generations to come.  This is not just for us this is for our kids and for our grand kids," says Gallatin Valley Land Trust Executive Director Penelope Pierce.

The bond would allow the city to purchase land for new trails and natural parks, as well as improve and connect pocket parks and existing trails.

"A lot of the parks in Bozeman were created by subdivision.  Developers are required to put in parks and trails but a lot of those parks and trails don't connect to anything else and we really want to connect this community so people can walk from one place to another so, people can get to school safely so, they can ride their bike to work," explains Pierce.

Supporters say there's also a need to protect wetlands.

"Wetlands provide that function.  They clean up the water and right here, right before it gets to Bozeman Beach.  We think there's a great opportunity for the city to purchase wetlands to restore them, to restore creek sides so that water has an opportunity to clean itself up before you hit places like Bozeman Beach," says Trust for Public Land Northern Rockies Director Deb Love.

They say, aside from attracting businesses with quality of life, new athletic fields would bring regional tournaments, boosting the economy.  

"A facility that would serve the needs of youth soccer, which is growing tremendously, youth lacrosse, rugby, under-served youth programs in our town," explains parks and trails bond proponent and founder of Schnee's Boots and Shoes Steve Schnee.

The $15 million bond would cost the average homeowner a little less than $45 a year.  We talked to some folks who say, they like the idea of maintaining and enhancing our trails but that a bond is not the way to do it.

Bozeman resident Bill Erickson says he loves to bike and frequently uses city trails.  Yet, he says city officials should consider other ways to pay for Bozeman's parks and trails, like a grant or tax.

"A speck tax, a special, excise tax that could be put in.  It's one or two cents and everybody pays for it, including the visitors that come here because they'll be using the trails," explains Erickson.

City officials tell us it won't be feasible now or anytime soon to implement a special tax like this one.

He says folks across the country are struggling right now- Bozeman is no exception- and $15 million is a lot of money.  Plus, Erickson says he's concerned about the county's role.

"County residents will be using the trails but the Bozeman residents are paying for it," says Erickson.

While he says he supports improvements, Erickson says he'd like to see more direction when it comes to where the money would go.

"How much is going to be spent on athletic facilities?  How much is going to be spent on paths, trails, et cetera?  I haven't seen one sentinel of evidence on where the money is going to be going," says Erickson.

Needless to say, Erickson says he will vote "no" for the bond this coming November.  

Yet supporters tell us, initial polls indicate a two to one margin in  favor of the bond.