Just 55 percent of those who participate in Smyrna-sponsored athletic programs, such as soccer and baseball, are city residents. The remaining 45 percent are county residents who do not pay Smyrna taxes that fund park maintenance and programs.
“I think it’s long overdue for the county to build something down here like a pool or some fields,” Bacon said.
County residents are charged a nominal non-resident fee, but Bacon says it doesn’t make up for the cost of maintaining fields.
“Every year it costs us more money to maintain (parks),” Bacon said.
The city operates about 20 parks and multiple athletic programs that bring county residents into Smyrna.
Eddie Cannon, parks services director of the Cobb County Parks and Recreation Department, says that’s because residents look for proximity when going to a park and quality of athletic programs. He’s certain that Smyrna-run parks are popular among county residents and praised the city’s athletic programming, but he says there are no plans to build new parks in Smyrna.
“We try not to duplicate any services that cities might provide,” Cannon said.
Cobb does operate parks in Marietta, Austell and Powder Springs, but Cannon said he couldn’t comment on decisions behind putting those parks inside cities because he was not working with the county at that time.
About $83 million in renovations funded by a special purpose local option sales tax is planned for county parks and Cannon said some of those are near Smyrna. Two parks lie just outside the city limits. Heritage Park is on the south side of the city off the East-West Connector that features a walking trail and about 14 acres of wetlands. Rhyne Park is off South Cobb Drive and contains playgrounds along with softball and tennis courts.
The closure of the Windy Hill Senior Center at 1885 Roswell St. SE near the intersection of Cobb Parkway has also put a strain on the city with nearby seniors now attending programs in Smyrna.
“It just puts another drain on our budget,” Bacon said adding he asked the county for use of the building.
But Cannon says the county is planning to re-open that center as the Windy Hill Community and Recreation Center to house therapeutic recreation programs for residents with special needs.
Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee says he’s open to talking about expanding parks services, but he doesn’t think a funding source will be available any time soon.
“Right now, funding is tight and starting a new parks project or program is on the back burner across the county,” Lee said.