Over the last couple years of severe budget cuts in Colorado Springs, I've spent a lot of time looking at city paperwork, talking on the phone and sitting through meetings.
There were so many questions raised by the numbers we were seeing. What happens if you stop funding community centers? Will the city's crime rate rise if you turn off some of the streetlights? How much can you cut the parks budget before you kill the sod?
That last question is particularly hard to answer. The equation has to take into account rainfall, soccer cleats, heat, even the condition of our sprinkler systems.
City Council, however, didn't have the time to run through all the mathematics. It slashed the general fund appropriation for parks from $19.6 million in 2008 to $3.7 million last year. Then city leaders crossed their fingers and watched.
By late summer 2010, the whole experiment seemed to have turned out better than most had guessed. The parks — particularly the neighborhood parks, which took the brunt of the cutbacks — looked stressed but not dead.
By late 2010, the economy was looking up, and Council was about to have more resources to put back into parks. It certainly looked like a bullet had been dodged.
Unfortunately, this spring it became clear that our collective sigh of relief was premature (see here). Many neighborhood parks just aren't popping back.