Lesser-used parks in Rock Island could be funded by community parternships

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Some city parks in Rock Island may need some outside help to keep them open long term, and that's the focus of three meetings coming up over the next month, to see if there's a chance for fundraising.

The Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department is switching over to a new three-tier system to prioritize which parks in the city will get the most attention in terms of funding and upgrades. They'll be using the results of a recent citywide survey that shows overall use from the public compared to each parks current level of funding.

The problem for the department is that the city has a tax base of around 50,000 people, but the funding is only set for a base of 35,000 people, so there's a gap needed to be made up somewhere. That's where three public meetings are coming into play over the next month, looking to the public's help for attention, and possibly funding.

"Our intent is to not jump right to selling parks or declaring them surplus. I'm going to beat the bush to try and find partnerships, alternate sources of funding, friends groups. If I fail at finding those, I will look within the city," Rock Island Parks and Recreation Executive Director John Gripp said.

Gripp is only a few months into his new position as Executive Director, and he applauds the efforts the department has already made to try and make up some of the lost funding.

"We are in the middle of evaluating all of our facilities to determine maintenance levels. We just completed a reorganization that's saving us upwards of $300,000 right off the bat. We'll continue to do our due diligence in finding partnerships," Gripp said.

He says they've already received interest from a number of community groups to help fund the lower-tier parks, but more long-term fundraising agreements need to be set up in order to have some of these city parks stay up and running into the future.

There will be three meetings in Rock Island to explain the state of the Parks and Recreation Department and what they're hoping to do for the parks.

The meetings will be at the following times and locations:

-Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 at the Rock Island Fitness & Activity Center, 6:00-7:30 pm

-Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 at the Hauberg Center, 6:00-7:30 pm

-Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 at the Southwest Library, 6:00-7:30 pm