Letter to the editor: Supporting Portage parks doesn’t mean opposing Portage farms

Editor’s note: The Portager publishes letters to the editor from the community. The opinions expressed are published not because they necessarily reflect those of the publication but because we feel they contribute meaningfully to the local discourse on matters of public interest.

This is an appeal to my friends who live in more rural, open quarters of Portage County. I understand that some see any expansion of the county Park District as removing agriculturally productive land from active farming. I appreciate that desire to protect farmland and preserve Portage County’s important farming way of life. And I’ve heard the argument that removing acreage from the tax roll shrinks the county’s overall real-estate tax revenue.

Nonetheless, I hope you will consider the following two points, and thereby support Issue 31 on the Nov. 7 ballot — a 1-mill levy for the Portage Park District.

1) Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Value program means farmland, whether used for crops or animals, tends to be taxed at a rate significantly lower than that of residential housing. The CAUV is a smart, effective tool that has long helped family farms stay economically viable.

The CAUV also means farmland has a much higher value if converted into housing. That fact has not escaped eager developers who celebrate the continued sprawl of suburbia penetrating ever deeper into Portage County, especially from our northwest and western edges. Mourning the loss of small amounts of agricultural acreage that become untaxed parkland seems a misplaced emotion.

2) Another objection to an expanding park district I’ve heard from some who live in the country is that Portage County is so open, so rural, we don’t need more parks in which to get fresh air and hikes. There’s plenty enough of all that. My response is, simply, all that open or forested land you see is privately owned. You can’t just go hiking and communing with nature on someone else’s property.

Strategically located county parks do two important things in this regard: They open up large, natural spaces for human enjoyment, and they preserve our rural way of life while guaranteeing a sanctuary — for flora and fauna alike — from the potential clutches of residential or commercial development.

Please join me in supporting the Portage Park District. Vote for Issue 31.

— Bob Springer, Kent

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