Many cities around the state have recreation levies, which help support recreational activities such as playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts and community centers.
Ironton and Athens are two cities near Marietta which have not only put recreation levies on the ballot and had them pass, but have also had voters renew them to keep generating money for park maintenance and new features.
Athens has had several levies over time and the one that passed 19 years ago has allowed the city to build a community recreation/arts center.
AMANDA NICHOLSON The Marietta Times
Joe Jeffers, 32, of Marietta, foreground, and Alan Nelson, 28, of Belpre, use the bow range at Buckeye Park last week. Many cities around the state have recreation levies to support current parks and promote the growth of new parks.
Mayor Paul Wiehl said the 0.15 percent levy has been added to the city's income tax, 0.1 percent of which went toward construction of the center and 0.05 percent of which went for operations. The total cost for residents on average is an extra $30 per year.
He said after Ohio University built a new recreation center, the public was allowed extremely limited access, which prompted the need for a community center.
"It's for other needs, not just recreation," Wiehl said, adding that includes artistic pursuits as well as a place to work out.
At a glance
What: Recreation levies.
Many cities around the state have them including: Athens, Ironton, Bowling Green, Germantown and Kent.
Uses: Maintaining current parks, whether mowing or replacing old equipment, building new parks, swimming pools and even community centers.
The rec levy in Athens uses income tax, the one in Ironton uses property tax. Both are small levies, but generate thousands of dollars yearly for park maintenance.
Marietta currently has no plans to put a recreation levy on the ballot.
In 2009, a recreation levy was proposed in Muskingum Township, but failed.
Source: Times research.
With the levy, the city has generated roughly $4 million to pay for the recreation center.
A new levy for Athens, which will be on the ballot in November, is to build a new swimming pool.
"Our pool...is almost 30 years old," said Wiehl. "We want to get it replaced."
The expected cost will be at least $3 million and the levy will be 0.1 percent on the income tax.
Wiehl said going to the voters can be risky but there is something they must ask themselves.
"The question you have to look at is what makes a city a home that you love," he said. "To many that could be hiking outside...you have to have the full cultural experience to live in a city. It has to be livable to everybody."
Locally, as recently as 2009, the East Muskingum Civic Association went in with the Oak Grove Recreation Committee to pitch the idea of a recreation levy to the Muskingum Township trustees. The 0.75-mill levy would have generated $65,000 a year for five years.
Jennifer Schenkel, treasurer for the EMCA, said a rec levy would have helped with upkeep of facilities in Devola.
"It is really important," she said. "Devola is basically a walking and bike path anyway."
She said a lot of work went into getting information about the levy out to the public.
"We made brochures, we actually went door to door and passed them out," Schenkel said.
Schenkel said recreation is important, and not only for the Devola area.
"I'm an advocate of all that kind of stuff," she said. "The first time, we lost by 14 votes and that where it's a lot of disappointment. It makes me think people do want it, but (everybody's asking for money). It comes down to cost."
Ironton is another city that has a recreation levy in place. Mayor Rich Blankenship said the rec levy has been on for many years, probably dating back to the mid-1970s, and passed again as recently as last year.
"Without (the levy) we wouldn't have city parks for the community to enjoy," he said. "I really think that having little parks is vital and beneficial to every community. Not everybody has a swing set to play with in the backyard."
Blankenship said the levy is put on property taxes and is a 0.5-mill, five-year levy. On average a homeowner with a house valued at $100,000 pays an extra $50 a year.
He said the successes of the levies could be in part to educating them what the money will be used for.
"Anytime you go to the taxpayers, I think it's crucial to education the community as to the need for (a levy)," he said. "Our recreation levy is very small but produces a large amount of enjoyment."
Blankenship said not only does the levy cover routine maintenance, it allows for new park equipment, to ensure everything is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"It's unfortunate that we have (to ask taxpayers for a levy), but it's crucial," he said. "(The levy) passed last November and it passed overwhelmingly...We were very appreciative...Without the recreation levy, we would not have city parks."
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews said a local levy would most likely be an up-in-the-air thing with voters.
"I don't know whether people would pass it," he said. "People now don't pass school levies...Right now I'm not supportive of any new taxes."
However, he said there could be some benefits.
"I think...(it would give) a lot of money to pile into recreation things in the city," said Matthews. "It would be great to have more money to do things."
Tara Hupp, director of the Washington County Board of Elections, said before a levy can be put on the ballot it has to clear many levels.
"Taxing authorities are predominantly the ones who can place an item on the ballot," said Hupp.
She said that means city council, the county or township would be able to put a levy on the ballot.
Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz said to his knowledge Belpre hasn't had a recreation levy and probably will not have one soon.
"With our parks, we get a lot of help from the recreation league," he said. "They maintain our fields...Recreation wise, we do pretty good for what we have...We're not in a position to do a levy."
Matthews said that while there are some benefits to a levy, there could be some drawbacks, especially for an aging population.
"Marietta is getting to be an older community; a lot are on Social Security and a fixed income," he said. "A lot don't want to (approve a levy). Whether it's a levy or income tax, the seniors are the ones that will go out and vote."
Currently, funding for the parks in Marietta is paid in part from the general fund or from grant sources when they're available, and the city currently does not have a plan in place for regular maintenance and upkeep of the recreational areas.
Alan Nelson, 28, of Belpre and Joe Jeffers, 32, of Marietta, use the archery section at Buckeye Park on a regular basis, and said they might support a levy.
"I'd love an indoor basketball court for the kids," Jeffers said. "In another month, you're not going to be able to shoot hoops outside, and that costs money. A bow range would (also) be nice (to see) somewhere in town."