What bothers me about the planned $312,000 "snack bar" in Northfield's Birch Grove Park isn't the price tag. It may seem high, but it does include wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, as well as meeting, office and storage space.

What bothers me is that it would be paid for with $300,000 Atlantic County Open Space funds. That's a tax that Atlantic County voters willingly imposed on themselves in order to fund open-space purchases. Few read the fine print of the referendum that said it could be used for recreational-facility improvements like lights, snack bars etc.

Yes, this is an old issue and we've been down this road before. And the county has done an admirable job of buying open space and linking its purchases to create a green belt in the county. But it's particularly rankling that $300,000-plus of open-space funds could go toward constructing a building at a time when land values are relatively low, there is little pressure from developers, and the county could get the biggest bang for its buck in open-space purchases.

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