Streetsboro -- The park system in Streetsboro continued to grow last year through development and land acquisitions.
For years, Streetsboro's only parks were City Park, located off Route 303 near the school campus, and Claire Wilcox Memorial Park, located on Route 303 west of Route 14.
During the past several years, that's changed. Through out-of-court settlements of two zoning disputes in 2009 and 2010, the acquired Thomas Heritage Park, a 108-acre parcel due west of the Target store and the 116-acre property formerly owned by Verna M. Beck. Between those parcels is a 14.2 acre parcel, which also was acquired through one of the settlements.
Thomas Heritage Park was acquired in August 2011 for $4.6 million. The city purchased a bond and has made $300,00 payments on it the last two years. The Beck property was acquired in July 2012 for a cost of about $1.1 million, according to Mayor Glenn Broska.
To pay for the Beck land, Council approved a promissory note to Western Reserve Land Conservancy, which paid for the land until the city acquired a grant from through the Ohio EPA's Water Resource Restoration Sponsorship Program.
"We anticipate this will be completed by the end of the year at the latest. Everything is coming together just fine. We need to get the I's dotted and T's crossed. Once that is done, funds will be available to the city," said Mike Settles, an EPA spokesman, in September.
The city received the $995,000 grant Nov. 23, nearly six months after Council approved the purchase agreement June 3.
Broska said the Beck land will remain "relatively undisturbed with only the addition of some walking paths and minimal intrusion into the natural aspects of the land."
The city also bought 55 acres next to Gott Fen, which is south of Route 303 near the railroad tracks with help from Waters Resource Restoration Sponsorship Program. The grant paid for the entire $600,000 cost of that land, according to former Streetsboro Planning & Economic Development Director Jeff Pritchard.
Christopher Szell, associate director of conservation projects and stewardship for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, praised the city's efforts to preserve the land.
"The city of Streetsboro has leaders who understand the significance of protecting water resources and open space," said Szell.
Work also began on developing Thomas Heritage Park, the area closer to Target.
"About a mile of grass trails have been cut into the property, said Streetsboro Parks & Recreation Director Greg Mytinger in July. "We're trying to get as many as three miles [of trails], but that might take some time," he said.
Near the entrance to the park, just southeast of a catch-and-release fishing pond, Broska said there's a natural bowl, an area where he envisions an amphitheater someday.
He said summer concerts and other entertainment could take place in a theater there, and audience members could sit on the slopes surrounding the stage, as they do at Blossom Music Center.
Further back in the park is a small building, about 1,400 square feet, where Broska said he eventually would like to house park maintenance staff. The staff is currently working out of City Hall but one of their "side jobs" is fixing up the small building, Broska said.
"Over by the house we own that sits up on top of a hill, there's a perfect sledding hill," he said, adding a smaller existing building could be made into a warming hut for shivering sledders.
In a flat area of the park, Broska said he envisions a community garden during the summer.
"In that same location, in the winter time, we could … have an ice skating pond," he said.
He also said there should be several picnic areas and pavilions scattered around the park to make it more user-friendly.
Across the Route 303, at Wilcox Park, Broska said he plans to build a soccer complex. There's space there for two or three full size soccer fields, he said.
"Eventually, over the next 10 years, we're going to have a park system that people will want to emulate," he said.
FB: The Gateway News/Bob Gaetjens