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City's parks budget remains lean
For Beth Covington, going to the playground at Howard Coffin Park with her 3-year-old daughter Aubrey is a better experience than it used to be.

Covington grew up in Glynn County and says that when she played at the park's softball fields, at the intersection of Gloucester Street and U.S. 17, the park was in poor shape.

"They at least have newer equipment here, a new playground and not just swings," she said. "It's better than it was."

While she and her daughter don't frequent the park often, it serves as a nice place to enjoy an afternoon, she said. Still, there's only one bench in the playground area, and there's standing water when it rains.

Some residents have said the lack of attention to the parks and squares in the city could further lower the value of living in the city. Lack of funding and poor maintenance of parks and squares drive away potential families from moving to neighborhoods nearby, and disappoint families who do call the neighborhoods home, they contend.

Still, City Manager Bill Weeks says the city has been operating on a small parks budget for years because of a weak economy, and it's not possible to make any changes yet.

"(The budget) for the parks has not been cut this year, but it's still a dilemma where we have basically 59 parks, four fountains, four tennis courts, playgrounds and baseball diamonds and soccer fields," Weeks said. "We have three people doing the maintenance work in the department."

In the budget for the fiscal year beginning Sunday, $200,000 is allocated for maintenance at parks and squares.

Howard Coffin Park does have $250,000 in funding from a previous Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax collection that will be used to improve athletic fields and playground equipment, Weeks said.

"We hope to have that project completed by the end of the year," he said.

When more money is in the budget, Weeks said he knows he will need to increase department staff and spending for maintenance.

"That's something we know we need to do," he said. "It's one of my goals to take care of in the short term and long term. We need to increase the resources (for the parks)."

Weeks says it is unfortunate that the economy has caused parks, which he calls valuable city assets, to fall into disrepair.

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