Time to Take a Deep Breath of Fresh Air, America: Voters Approve Billions for Local Parks and Natural Areas

Nov 9, 2016 by


Americans may be divided on many issues, but we all love our parks and wilderness areas.

Hiking couple of hikers in outdoor activity wearing backpacks relaxing. Woman and man hiker looking with smiling happy. Healthy lifestyle image from Iao Valley State Park, Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA.
Photo Credit: Maridav/Shutterstock

Voters across the nation approved local and state ballot measures providing more than $6 billion for land conservation, parks, and restoration. Many of the ballot measures called for tax increases or bonds.

There were 86 local protection measures on the ballot and 68 passed, providing $6.3 billion for conservation.

Tonight, we saw again that while American voters are divided on many issues, parks and natural areas are an issue that we can all agree on. Whether they were voting for red or blue candidates, voters are green—they want local parks and close-to-home places for recreation and they’re willing to pay for them. (Here’s a list of ballot measures with results).

Earlier in 2016, 14 of 17 park and land conservation ballot measures passed, creating $3.3 billion for parks and open space. Combined with yesterday’s total, the 103 measures on the ballot in 2016 are the most since 2008, marking a return to pre-2008 recession levels of park and open space ballot activity at the local level.

This 79 percent approval rate isn’t surprising, since over the past 20 years, we’ve consistently seen that more than 75 percent of local and state conservation ballot measures are approved, often by landslide margins.

  • The largest measure was in Los Angeles County, where voters decided by a 73-27 percent margin to tax themselves to provide funds for most of the county’s 88 cities. The Trust for Public Land led the campaign, which replaces a tax that was passed in 1992 but expired last year, and another measure which sunsets in two years.
  • In Boston, voters opted by 74-26 percent to join Massachusetts’ Community Preservation Act, a statewide program which provides matching funds for local parks and open space, affordable housing, and historic preservation. Boston voters approved a 1 percent surcharge on city property taxes that is estimated to raise $20 million annually.  Boston voters overwhelming voted for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for U.S. president.

Voters in the traditional swing states of Florida, Ohio and Colorado showed their support for parks and conservation, approving ballot measures regardless of the choice for president.

  • Donald Trump, the Republican president-elect, won the state of Florida and overwhelmingly carried Lee County and Brevard County. On the same ballot, Lee County voters gave 84-16 percent approval and Brevard County voters 62-38 percent approval for measures to provide funding for land conservation and restoration.
  • In Alachua County, Florida, voters picked Hillary Clinton for president and also approved by 60-40 percent a half-cent sales tax for parks and protecting environmentally sensitive land.
  • In Colorado, two of the three conservation ballot measures were overwhelmingly approved. Grand County voters approved (60-40 percent) a new sales tax for parks and trails. Pitkin County voters also approved (70-30 percent) a property tax renewal. Clinton carried the state and also won overwhelmingly in Pitkin County, while Trump won in Grand County.
  • Trump easily won metro Cincinnati’s Clermont County, while voters there also overwhelmingly approved new funding for parks, by 63-37 percent.

Will Rogers is the president of The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that helps cities, counties and states pass funding measures for parks and land conservation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *