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As ballots hit mailboxes, parks bond has Billings residents divided

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Posted at 6:18 PM, Oct 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-18 20:18:36-04

BILLINGS — Whether playing ball with man's best friend or just taking a walk, parks in Billings are a popular spot.

And more than a dozen could be getting massive renovations if a $143 million parks bond passes on Nov. 7. Ballots were mailed to voters Tuesday.

"The premise behind this, (Billings City) Council took all of the city parks in Billings, made a big list and prioritized where we can be the most effective and where will be the best use of our money," said Julie Seedhouse, co-chair of the Play it Forward campaign on Wednesday.

Play It Forward Billings is the group advocating for the $143 million parks bond. It's a project that will take about 20 years to complete, with improvements being made at over 16 parks and trails around Billings.

"There will be a tax increase. That’s the only way we can fund projects like this in Montana because we don’t have a sales tax here in Montana, so people will see a tax increase, but it won’t be the whole amount immediately," added Seedhouse.

Centennial, Coulson, and Poly Vista parks are among the spaces that would receive major face-lifts.

Coulson, which sits along the Yellowstone River, will become home to the city’s third dog park, along with a bike park, and a railroad right-of-way trail.

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A splash pad, a playground, and sports courts would be added to Centennial Park on the west end, along with a new dog park trail.

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And Poly Vista Park, currently home to Landon’s Miracle Field, would also get a new playground, restrooms, splash pad, and even exercise equipment.

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The big upgrades are welcomed by some, but others remain hesitant.

"I have three little kids. We’re outside with them, trying to find things to do, be outside in the community and we utilize them a lot, so we’re really excited about this bond," said Billings resident Stephanie Waller on Wednesday.

The bond would cost property owners $50 annually for every $100,000 of the value of their property. For the owner of a $250,000 home, the bond would cost $125 annually in a property-tax increase. Click here for what the parks bond would cost you if if passes.

"It seems to be that those of us paying taxes are going to pay for it and I’m not so sure that’s such a good deal," said Billings resident Doug Wood on Wednesday.

A decision left to all Billings voters to decide come Nov. 7.

"There’s never going to be an easy time to put more money into our park systems and our trail systems. I think that if we truly do care about this community, I think it’s a sacrifice that we need to be willing to make as residents of Billings. Regardless of whether we’re using them or not because generations after us will be using them for years to come," added Waller.