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Conservation Tax A Wise Investment

Tue., Dec. 17, 1996

The Spokane River in winter is slate gray in color. It winds its way through Spokane, cold but determined. The trees on the river’s banks are dusted with snow. It looks like a Christmas card scene.

You can catch a glimpse of the winter river near Downriver Golf Course. There, 2.3 acres of open land face the river.

A convalescent center once stood on the land, and that prime river land faced development.

But thanks to the conservation futures tax, Spokane County purchased the property. Now, it always will remain a sacred place to contemplate the river.

Last week, county commissioners showed remarkable vision and voted to keep the futures tax one more year.

Commissioners are to be congratulated for casting votes that will help preserve the quality of life for which Spokane is famous.

The tax, collected since 1994, has raised $2.6 million and helped to preserve nearly 500 acres of land for parks and open spaces. The tax costs the homeowner of a $150,000 home only about $9 a year. That’s equal to a nice bottle of wine, three matinee movie tickets or about three packs of cigarettes.

In the fall, citizens will cast an advisory vote on whether to keep the tax.

We urge every city and county resident to take some time between now and then to explore the areas preserved by the tax.

Look at the grove of ancient cedar trees preserved on the 86 acres the county purchased by Liberty Lake County Park. Take a boat ride on south Long Lake and marvel at the 1.75 miles of remote shoreline preserved forever. Hike on the eight acres connecting Palisades and Indian Canyon parks.

Money collected in the future could help buy park land out in the north suburbs where a new development seems to appear nearly every day.

The tax is not anti-development, as one of the lone opponents said at a hearing before the vote.

Instead, it will help developers and businesses attract new residents to the area.

It is a drawing card to any community if leaders can say: “You can live within a mile of a major shopping center and also within a mile of a major hiking area.”

City life and country life can coexist, but only if some of the country is preserved. The conservation futures tax is a good tax. In 1997, find out why you are paying it. Hike the land. See the river. Sit in the shade of the cedar trees. Be prepared for the vote in the fall. It’s called a “futures” tax for a reason.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board

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