$3 million park giveaway makes big mess of recreation district divorce

The Collinsville Area Recreation District offered a circus camp for kids in 2013.
The Collinsville Area Recreation District offered a circus camp for kids in 2013. snagy@bnd.com

The Collinsville Area Recreation District seems to be in either a protracted, polygamous divorce or a long suicide by dismemberment.

Either is likely to be costly and painful, but it could be less so were some attention paid to method.

A poor method would be scattershot approval of property taxpayers leaving the district. Another poor method would be surprising your partners by giving away community property without much notice.

That’s been happening, and the decision to give Pleasant Ridge Park to the Village of Maryville was the latest example. The park was worth more than $3 million.

Recreation district board president Ron Jedda called the decision a win-win because residents may still go to the park but Maryville taxpayers will pay the $170,000 a year to operate it. They rushed the park transfer so the district and village could change the property tax amounts each is seeking for the coming year.

The district already shed the Miner’s Theatre to a foundation, 7.5 acres of wetlands to Madison County and Schnucks Park to Collinsville. Before they give away the rest of their assets, there should be agreement by the district’s stakeholders, including Collinsville, Maryville, Pontoon Beach and Glen Carbon.

The district seemed like a great idea when it started in 1991, but not any more. Its debt load takes $2 of every $3 collected in property taxes. Local municipal leaders formed a chorus to call for its demise. Taxpayers voted to cut it by $250,000 a year. Even board members have been working towards its end.

A plan led to this joining of regional parks and recreation resources. A plan should end it.