Doing more for ourselves In 1967, as the finishing touches were being put on Bartow’s “new” civic center, the one that replaced the Depression-era fieldstone building on North Wilson Avenue, this newspaper proudly referred to it as “Bartow’s million dollar civic center.”
We believed then, as we do now, that for a community with a population (at that time) of fewer than 13,000 residents to spend $1 million on such a quality of life facility (with an Olympic size swimming pool, eight lighted tennis courts, and many other amenities) without borrowing and without seeking federal funds was nothing short of remarkable.
While we considered it a point of pride, one city commissioner took exception to the figure.
“How much did the city spend on the building?” our managing editor asked him.
He replie,d “$950,000,” the arrogance showing clearly in his voice. “And what was the amount of the bid the city awarded a few weeks ago for furnishings and equipment?” The arrogance fading from his voice, he replied, “Uh … $50,000.”
Some politicians and bureaucrats simply deny the numbers they don’t like, but adding up the numbers he himself had provided made it difficult to spin away an obvious truth.
Historically, Bartow’s budgets for parks and recreation, or for the more inclusive term, “leisure services,” have reflected the community’s commitment to the quality of life it provides for its citizens.
There are three major community centers (the Bartow Civic Center, Carver Recreation Center, and the Polk Street Center) and parks ranging from small neighborhood beauty spots to the 119-acre Mary Holland Park and the 95-acre Bartow Park ballfield complex on County Road 555.
Bartow’s municipal library — the fruit of the once vacant “skeleton building” overlooking Mobil Lake — offers a breathtaking view of some of Bartow’s parks, as well as an intellectual and social hub for the community.
It is against that backdrop that we congratulate the parks and rec folks on the creation of the Bartow Parks and Recreation Foundation, Inc.
This foundation joins a growing number of citizens’ organizations that look to the community — not to government — to provide some of the “extras” that increase the functionality of public institutions.
PTA/PTO and equivalent organizations have done this for public schools for decades.
Friends of the Library groups are ubiquitous.
The Polk County History Center — Polk’s old courthouse which now houses the county’s historical museum and genealogical library — soon will mount a campaign for public support.
Those who study these matters say that about three-fourths of the funding for local foundations comes from individual contributors, not from corporate donors.
That says a lot about the willingness of people to support activities they believe in, support that goes beyond the limited resources provided by taxation.
We welcome the Bartow Parks and Rec Foundation to that growing expression of community support, and commend those citizens who are willing to pony up to enhance government and quasi-government services in which they take a special interest.