The dollars and sense of the DCP District


By Deb Shiverdecker,

Darke County Parks

People ask me quite often how the Park District runs financially and what all we do. I thought I would take a few moments to share the world of government finance. The Park District runs on two-10 year renewable 0.5 mill property tax levies that cost the property owners of Darke County about the cost of a nice family pizza dinner (approximately $35) each year (based on a home valued at $100,000.) This brings in about 1.2 million dollars to operate the park district. Funding for special events/projects and capital projects is budgeted from this operating money or is obtained through grants and donations or fundraising. The voters of Darke County have generously voted to pass these levies in support of the Parks over the years. The Park District has begun an Endowment Fund through its Friends of the Darke County Parks group which is available for any donation or memorial giving. The Park District’s dream is to become able to operate fully or partially off of the endowment at some future point in time.

$1.2 million is a lot of money right? What does the Park District do with all that money? The Park District takes care of 15 park areas with over 1,000 acres around Darke County that have been obtained mostly by donation, grant or conservation programs. Two of our park areas just became listed on the Old Growth Forest Network. Our Board has acquired only land areas that have special natural or historical significance due to the important agriculture-based community that we live in. We operate two modern education centers, log house and council house historical education areas, a sugar shack and a 175-year-old working grist mill. We offer several low or no cost events to the community throughout the year and serve thousands of school children and teachers with free or low-cost nature and history programming. We share up to $75,000 annually with the local city and village parks in the county through our Community Park Improvement Grants so that they can have local active recreation areas that we do not have in our parks such as swings, ball parks, swimming pools, etc. We are building a biking/walking trail through Darke County for the community to enjoy in the hopes of connecting our citizens with surrounding county/regional trails. We take care of several rescued birds of prey and other animals used for educational purposes. We offer many programs for people from young to old including bird walks, dog walks, cats and coffee, owl prowls, maple sugaring, bike rides, paddling instruction, historical skills, sustainable living programs, yoga and relaxation, boat and bike rentals and community gardens at the Bish Discovery Center. We try to contract with local companies as we can afford and bring tax money back into Darke County through grants and programs through the State and Federal government. We have several facilities that are open to usage by the community either through reasonable rental fees or as no cost meeting spaces for non-profit organizations.

If that $1.2 million is still sounding like a lot I challenge you to think of what it might take in maintenance, repairs and operations for a 175-year-old grist mill itself!

Future projects in the works are: the continued restorations at Historic Bear’s Mill, continuance of the Tecumseh Bike Trail, promised acquisition and development of the historical park in Ft. Jefferson, replacement of the boardwalk trail at Shawnee Prairie, renovation of the red barn at Shawnee Prairie into an agricultural museum and possible community space, additions to the log house historical education area, a kids’ natural play area at the Bish Discovery Center, further development of the Bish Discovery Center, replacement of some deteriorated shelters and facilities, etc. The list never ends because the dreams for making our community better never end. We must continue to offer services to make the quality of life in Darke County call out to the younger professional workers, farm families and proprietors who will make our county stay alive and vibrant in the future.

The Park District will continue to use your hard-earned tax dollars wisely and we invite you to come join us in our quest to become more self-sufficient. We are currently seeking a passionate-about-parks person/finance and fundraising wizard to work on our Endowment fundraising. We are seeking five $25,000 sponsors to assist in the procurement of 16 acres of historic property in Ft. Jefferson. We are always seeking citizen volunteers to help us in our everyday quest by coming out to physically volunteer their time and talents or donate needed supplies. If you can write grants or are interested in learning; we need your help. And most of all, just come out and enjoy the wonderful places and services we offer.

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