General Election Day 2020 was a huge success for our parks and public lands: voters approved all of the 26 measures supported by The Trust for Public Land Action Fund, a resounding sign of the importance of parks and nature for communities across the country. Together we helped create nearly $3.7 billion in new funding for land conservation, parks, climate resiliency, and habitat.
Despite a divisive election season saddled with pandemic-fueled uncertainty, Americans once again found cause to stand united. In Tuesday’s election, voters overwhelmingly expressed their support for more equitable access to parks, the protection of air and water quality, climate change mitigation, and the conservation of precious open space.
Here’s a list of measures that passed and were supported by The Trust for Public Land Action Fund. (and you can view the complete list of all 2020 conservation wins nationwide at LandVote.org):
- Oakland: Voters approved Measure Y, a $735 million school bond placed on the ballot by the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). The Action Fund’s 501(c)(3) affiliate, The Trust for Public Land, has long worked with the District on green, or “living,” schoolyards in Oakland. OUSD has identified green schoolyards as one of the projects that could be funded by the 2020 school bond.
- San Francisco: Proposition A passed by 71 percent and will generate a $487.5 million bond that includes $239 million dedicated to neighborhood parks projects and a variety of programs that support recreation and open spaces throughout the city. The bond, a response to the economic difficulty caused by the pandemic, will also be used to support efforts to combat homelessness and mental health issues, as well as upgrading city infrastructure.
- Adams County: Issue 1A was renewed, which dedicates a quarter-cent sales tax for parks, trails, and open space in one of the most populous and rapidly developing counties in Colorado. The tax yields around $400 million over 20 years. 83 percent of Adams County voters voted “yes.”
- Denver City and County: Denverites approved a “climate sales tax” in Measure 2A, a quarter-cent tax increase that will generate an estimated $800 million over the next 20 years for a wide variety of climate-related programs — an unprecedented move for a major city in the U.S. The Denver measure also directly addresses equity issues, mandating that the “funding should maximize investments in communities of color, under-resourced communities, and communities most vulnerable to climate change and endeavor to invest 50% of the dedicated funds directly in community with a strong lens toward equity and race and social justice.”
- Colorado River Water Conservation District: Voters in the 15 counties that comprise this special district voted “yes” on Issue 7A to increase their property taxes to protect water security in Western Colorado and improve water use and healthy streams and rivers. The District’s counties are west of the Continental Divide in which a majority of the Colorado River Basin exists. The measure is projected to generate nearly $100 million over the next 20 years.
- Volusia County: Two conservation-related measures passed — Volusia County Forever conservation program was renewed, as was the County’s Environmental, Cultural, Historic, and Outdoor Recreation (ECHO) program. These two measures will each dedicate a 0.2 mill property tax increase, projected to raise $294 million total and provide $100 million in new bonding authority. Volusia Forever is Florida’s first and oldest county land conservation program, originally approved by voters in 1986. The measures passed by 76 and 72 percent, respectively.
- Collier County: Voters continued the highly successful Conservation Collier program, a 10-year, 0.25 mill property tax for acquisition and management of environmentally sensitive lands to generate $287 million over the next decade. 76 percent of county voters supported the measure.
- Manatee County: Voters in Manatee County decided on a 0.15 mill property tax increase and $50 million bond for the acquisition, improvement, and management of land to protect water quality, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, and provide parks. The measure will generate $108 million and, for the first time ever, provide dedicated county funding for land conservation and parks. This victory moves Manatee County into the “win” column, after the narrow defeat of a similar measure in 2004. The measure was approved with 71 percent support.
- Community Preservation Act: All nine communities in Massachusetts said “yes” to the Community Preservation Act (CPA) this election: the cities of Framingham, Franklin, and Greenfield, as well as the towns of Hopedale, Lancaster, Lee, Milton, Shrewsbury, and Whitman. CPA is a state program that allows communities to establish a local fund dedicated to open space, outdoor recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing. Collectively, these measures will generate almost $33 million over the next 20 years for CPA open space and recreation projects, as well as making these communities eligible for additional state matching funds.
- Statewide: Amendment 20-1, a statewide constitutional amendment, lifts the cap on how much the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund can take in. Created in 1976, the fund uses royalties from the oil, gas, and mining industries to create and protect state parks and other natural resources.
- City of Rochester: City Question #1, a $2 million per year property tax levy to improve park access for those with disabilities, improve park safety and quality, conserve trees, and protect water quality and natural areas throughout Rochester, was approved by voters.
- Statewide: Montanans said “yes” to two statewide measures to legalize and tax recreational marijuana this November. I-190 allocates 50 percent of the tax proceeds to land conservation and CI-118 is a constitutional amendment to ensure that only adults aged 21 years and older can purchase. These initiatives are projected to generate $360 million over 20 years for land conservation in Montana.
- New Paltz: When 72 percent of voters said “yes” to Local Law No. 1, the Town of New Paltz became the first municipality in Ulster County to approve a real estate transfer tax to support a local Community Preservation Fund. The fund will be used to protect the town’s river and streams, drinking water source, working farms, and wildlife habitat. The measure is estimated to generate more than $3.5 million over 20 years. The New York State Association of Realtors spent $143,000 to defeat this real estate transfer tax, outspending our vote “yes” campaign three-to-one.
- Ottawa County: Through Issue 14, voters in the county, located on Lake Erie, established their park district’s first dedicated funding source through a 10-year, 0.6 mill property tax increase. The fund will be used to create hiking and biking trails, protect the water quality of Lake Erie, and fund other capital improvements, operations, and maintenance. $11 million could be created over the coming decade.
- Hays County: Located in the Texas Hill Country, 70 percent of Hays County voters approved Proposition A, a $75 million open space bond on the November ballot. The measure will fund land protection for recreational or open-space use, protect wildlife habitat and water quality of creeks, rivers, and springs; and protect natural resources by minimizing flood risks and improving flood safety. This win renews Hays County conservation funding from a successful 2001 bond referendum also supported by The Trust for Public Land.
On Tuesday, November 5th, Americans voted YES for parks and public lands — approving 24 ballot measures in 14 states, and generating $4.4 billion for parks and conservation.
We are proud to stand with the communities who are making a difference for parks and open space. Here’s a list of the wins we helped achieve this year (and you can view the complete list of all 2019 conservation wins nationwide at LandVote.org):
Texas (statewide) — State constitutional amendment to dedicate the state sales tax on the purchase of sporting goods to parks and conservation. Passed by 88%
Colorado Springs, Colorado — Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) measure to allow the city to retain an additional $7 million from the existing sales tax for parks and trails. Passed by 57%
Portland Metro, Oregon — $475 million bond for open space, parks, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, recreation and trails. Passed by 64%
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — City charter amendment to levy a 0.5 mil property tax to improve park safety and equitably fund parks in underserved neighborhoods. Passed by 52%
Lowell, Massachusetts — Adoption of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) at 1 percent. Passed by 58%
Scarborough, Maine — $2.5 million bond for open space, parks, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, trails, and recreation. Passed by 58%
New Brunswick, New Jersey — Establishment of an Open Space Trust Fund and 1 percent property tax levy. Passed by 76%
Dorchester County, South Carolina — $38 million bond to fund improvements to parks throughout the county and the acquisition of conservation land along the Ashley River. Passed by 67%
Taken together, we expect these measures to generate roughly $4.1 billion in parks and conservation funding – which means we have helped generate almost $5.4 billion in public funding for lands and water in 2019.
This is a remarkable record of success — a demonstration of unity across political and geographic divides that will help ensure healthy, livable communities for generations to come.