Parks Cut Suggested To Avoid Tax Raise

On May 13, 2010, in News 2010, by Mark Norris

Fund That Buys Land For Preservation May Be Used, Reported By Cara Kumari
May 13, 2010

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — A waterfall near Cookeville is one of Tennessee’s natural treasures. The land around it is going up for auction for development, much to the dismay of those fighting to keep Tennessee green.

“We’ve invested millions of dollars in our state parks, and it’s crazy to risk losing them now, the pristine nature of the places we’ve set aside,” said Kathleen Williams of Forever Green Tennessee. “We’ve got bluffs all over Tennessee at risk.”

The state assesses a fee on real estate recordings that goes to pay for acquisition of state and local park land. Conservationists said that money has already been used to buy more than 200,000 acres of land for preservation.

“It’s helped Radnor Lake, Shelby Bottoms, Beaman Park, places in our home, in our backyard that we care about,” Williams said.

The problem is that fund is easy to raid when budgets get tight. And this year, that’s one of the suggested areas to cut instead of raising taxes.

“We have been very fortunate in our ability to acquire a lot of parkland over the last several years, so we have to prioritize and question if this is one of those years where we can continue to make funding for that available or whether we need to stretch it out a little bit,” said Sen. Mark Norris.

Norris said many hope to eventually use those funds for their dedicated purpose.

“We’d like to see those funds restored to their original purpose as quickly as possible, and that is certainly in discussion,” said Norris.

But some feel later will be too late.

“We’re in a race against development. This set aside a little, bitty piece of that fee to preserve the best Tennessee has to offer,” Williams said.

State lawmakers said none of the cuts has been decided on yet.

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