Page:Olmsted report on Portland, Oregon parks, 1903.djvu/9

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21
REPORT OF THE PARK BOARD

moderate cost, trunk thoroughfares outside the closely built area of most cities are being carelessly allowed to pass by. Unless parks properly distributed, located and bounded to best preserve beautiful local scenery and to accomplish the essential purposes they are designed for are secured while the land is comparatively unoccupied by expensive improvements, they rarely can be secured at all. To take an extreme case one has only to consider how utterly impossible it would now be for the city of New York to secure on Manhattan Island another such park as Central Park. But even if a sufficient area of land for a park should remain vacant near the heart of a city it is almost certain to rise to a value that is prohibitory and this alone is a sufficient reason for taking parks betimes. There is still a large vacant area west of the Boston Park called The Fens but whereas the land occupied by The Fens cost, twenty-six years ago, only 10 cents a square foot, or about $4,300.00 an acre, this vacant land adjoining it would doubtless cost now considerably more than $2.00 a square foot on an average, or over $86,000 an acre.

12—The Land for Park Systems Should Be Paid for by Long-Term Loans.

There is a very commendable disinclination on the part of legislatures to pass laws authorizing long term municipal loans and in favor of keeping a comparatively low limit on the total amount which cities are allowed to borrow. But the case of loans for purchase of land, especially land for a park system is very decidedly different from that of loans for most other municipal improvements. It is unwise for cities, as for business men and corporations, to borrow more than a safe fraction of their marketable assets or so much that the interest and annual sinking fund payments will be possibly greater than the sure income applicable to these purposes during periods of industrial depression. Still more fundamental is the principal that money should not be borrowed unless it can be profitably employed. In the case of money borrowed for the acquisition of park land it should be borne in mind that the land is an asset that will be worth more in almost every instance, by the time the loan becomes payable, than the amount of the loan. Moreover, as a general rule, the special increase in the assessor's valuations of adjoining private lands and in the improvements subsequently erected upon them, will yield increased taxes sufficient to meet the interest and the annual contributions to the sinking fund of the park-land loan. Of course there should be limitations, but experience indicates that the limits for park-land loans may safely be set very much higher than for other municipal loans. Examination of the facts by experts would be required, doubtless, to fully satisfy those in authority; but it requires very little knowledge of municipal finances to