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Bob Dempster

I have always viewed the future of St Joseph as bright. I moved here before my son was born. I left for a few years and came back. Both of those times I saw the potential of St Joseph. That was 30 some years ago. I still see the potential. We as a city have dreams of what can be and a memory of what was. On Aug. 3 we can marry the dreams with the memories.

The history of our park system goes back to the 1890s when Henry Krug donated 10 acres to the city. Thirty some years later, the donation had increased to 160 acres. An amphitheater and palace for children had been constructed. The Parkway was in the design phase, inspired by the nationwide City Beautiful Movement. The objective was to create a 10-mile pastoral pathway to connect Krug Park with Hyde Park, a 90-acre park dedicated in 1915. St Joseph was competing with the biggest and the best cities in the nation for design excellence.

Flash forward to 2021. Our Parkway system is still the pride of our community. The Parkway has been enhanced over the years with walking trails from Hyde to Krug. Along the way you will find swimming pools and splash parks; ball fields, both hard and soft; tennis and pickle-ball courts; golf courses for those with clubs or Frisbees; ponds for fishing and ponds for reflection. Don’t forget all the playgrounds and shelters, charcoal pits, restrooms, dirt bike trails, baseball stadiums, arenas, theaters, nature centers and ice skating facilities. Oh the green space! The marvelous green space connecting it all. Trees older than any of us and some as young as your newborn. All of these features help bring people together. People from near. People from far.

None of our facilities bring in enough revenue to cover their costs. In order to keep them maintained to a degree that meets our expectations, additional resources are required. Over the past few decades we have built facilities and let deferred maintenance become standard throughout the system.

That is about to change. With a half-cent increase in the sales tax, (40% of which is generated by people visiting our city), the memories of the bad and the ugly will fade. The dream is to enhance the good by building back better along with a few enhancements. The revenue stream will fix what is broken, replace pieces prone to failure and replace what is beyond repair. The dream is that St Joseph fills its parks with people and becomes a city recognized for its beauty once again.

You can help. To succeed, this effort will have to overcome the block of naysayers to all things. It will take all of us to go to the polls. I’m optimistic. This plan was put together by a citizens committee from all parts of town. It is OUR PLAN. I feel the renewed surge of passion for our parks. I’m hoping you do as well.

Encourage your friends and neighbors to join us at the polls on Tuesday, Aug. 3, to help pass the Parks Tax!

Bob Dempster is a member of the citizens committee advocating for a park improvement sales tax on the Aug. 3 ballot.

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