Financial cloud over city parks

There's no time quite like the balmy days of spring to wander down to a neighborhood park during the lunch hour and sit amidst the azaleas and delphiniums with a newspaper or good book in hand. But for many a community around the United States there is now a genuine question about how many of these urban parks will be available for sitting and lounging purposes during the springs and summers to follow.

The Reagan administration, as part of its economy effort, is ending specific federal aid for urban parks. It is seeking to eliminate the $75 million for urban parks proposed in the Carter budget for fiscal year 1982, as well as the modest $35 million left over for urban parks in the fiscal 1981 budget. Instead it is proposing that such park and recreation funds mightm be included in block grants as of, say, 1983 or thereafter.

More will be said about funding for parks in subsequent comment on this page. Suffice it to say at this point that Congress, while properly cutting back unnecessary federal expenditures, should not overlook the plight of the small urban park.

Visitors to cities like New York, Atlanta, Seattle, and San Francisco quickly find such settings to be an oasis of calm amidst the hurly-burly of the city.

Congress is examining the budget for urban parks this week. Should all federal funding truly be eliminated? Would block grant monies ever be used for parks? Most cities would probably find far more pressing uses for the funds and the parks would find themselves on the bottom of the budget roster.

Even while the administration and Congress grapple with the issue, a number of businesses, citizen groups, and neighborhood organizations are coming to the aid of local parks in many communities. That certainly is a trend worth encouraging.

Being able to hear a bird, smell a flower, and watch children at play on a strip of well-kept greenery in the heart of a city is one of those modest but basic triumphs of civilizat ion that should not be sacrificed.

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