Counties and municipalities in the Kansas City region are currently using a variety of techniques to finance trail and greenway projects. These range in size and scope from the bequest of a land gift by a developer to the passage of a voter-approved parks/trails sales tax measure. The MetroGreen plan has explored a range of financing options, illustrating successful approaches within the region and outlining potential new financing opportunities.
Achieving the vision of MetroGreen may involve several financial approaches, ranging from a wholesale regional funding initiative to a series of independent — yet interconnecting, ideally — local efforts reflecting the goals, financing capacity and political landscape of a county or municipality.
Local governments have a wide range of funding sources to consider and can look to other funding partners such as state and federal programs. Several metro area governments have found success in this area by combining funding sources into a so-called "funding quilt." For example, the city of Lee's Summit, Mo., relies on several sources to fund its comprehensive greenway plan: voters have approved a dedicated parks/trails sales tax; federal and state grant money has been secured; and park planners work closely with developers to encourage donations to park land, trails and green space.
Another model community is the city of Lenexa, which uses a variety of funding sources to implement its "Rain to Recreation" program. These include a 1/8 cent sales tax for stormwater/recreation improvements; a stormwater utility charge on residential, commercial, and industrial users; and a capital fee on new development. These funds are supplemented with revenue from existing sources such as the county's Stormwater Management Program.
Regardless of the combination of funding methods used, the primary funding source for MetroGreen will be individual local governments. State and federal funds (as well as private sources) can serve as incentives or as supplements, but relying upon them as a primary funding source will limit the ability to achieve the vision of MetroGreen.
Key financing options
A community's financing options will depend on such factors as taxing capacity, budgetary resources, voter preferences and the political will of the governing body of a jurisdiction. Funding for trails and greenways can come from federal and state grants; the creation of regional special districts; county and municipal taxing/borrowing option; and local non-taxing sources such as impact fees, stormwater utilities, and negotiated donations by landowners.
The ability of local governments to establish dedicated funding sources for trails and greenways (and more generally parks and land conservation) depends on state enabling authority. Both Kansas and Missouri have given local governments a broad and varied range of options to fund trails and greenways such as taxes, borrowing, impact fees, etc.
Funding options can vary greatly in how difficult they are to implement and how much money they generate. For instance, sales tax measures are fairly popular and can generate considerable funds. However, they require voter approval and are limited by a jurisdiction's taxing capacity. Some local planners are successfully encouraging developers to donate land during the planning process — an approach with a simpler implementation process, yet one that will likely yield fewer conservation resources. Whatever the funding structure may be, it is important that a community carefully assess its options and design a program that reflects local needs, maximizes local resources and leverages outside funding.
Funding for this project is provided in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and from U.S. EPA Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources under Section 604b, G06-WQM-01, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Section 604(b) of the Clean Water Act, G10-ARRAWQ-03.