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A discussion among City Council members earlier this month has led the Parks, Recreation & Conservation Advisory Committee to consider reviewing or replacing the 2007 Parks Master Plan.
Speaking at the committee’s Feb. 4 meeting, Carmen Laudato, chair of the advisory committee, said plans for further improvements at Thomas Heritage Park should be put on hold.
“My feeling is that we don’t make any more decisions about Thomas Heritage Park or make recommendations for funding until there is a revision to include Thomas Heritage Park in the [parks] master plan,” she said.
Laudato said she would like residents to take part in the process of reviewing the parks plan.
The discussion stemmed from Council’s Jan. 27 decision not to fund a 28- to 40-spot parking lot at the 116-acre park located on Route 303 next to Target.
“The real reason I think the parking lot was brought up was because there’s just not enough money to go around,” City Council member Jeff Allen told the advisory committee Feb. 4.
During Council’s discussion at its Jan. 27 meeting, Council member Tim Claypoole said baseballs can get through the backstops behind home plate on several of the fields, creating a hazard for any fans behind the backstop.
Streetsboro Parks & Recreation Director Greg Mytinger said leveling, improving drainage and replacing a backstop would cost about $100,000 for two ball fields.
Mytinger said one reason he’s been holding off on improvements at City Park is uncertainty for the past couple of years surrounding the School Board’s plan for a new high school. There’s been a lot of discussion about using a portion of City Park as a site for the high school, but School Board members seem to be leaning heavily toward a site on Route 14.
Allen, Laudato, City Council member John Ruediger and advisory committee member Dick Rynearson said they believe Thomas Heritage Park has “great potential,” in Rynearson’s words.
“It has great potential for the kind of passive recreation the community does need,” said Rynearson. “We ought to make whatever modifications are appropriate in our [parks] master plan.”
Allen suggested developing a plan for improvements at Thomas Heritage Park, which was acquired from the Steffner family as part of a settlement of a zoning-related lawsuit, and placing it before voters to give them a direct voice in its development. The legal complaint was filed in 2008 by former property owner Raymond Steffner, Cambridge Services Co., David Kolar, neighbor John Trzaska and H.W. Steffner against the city of Streetsboro and various city leaders and alleged the zoning on the property was in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution and made development “economically unviable.”
“On the campaign trail, Steffner was the third topic,” he told committee members. “A lot of people are very mad about it; some people are happy about it. I think it needs to be segregated out and put to the voters.”
Both Laudato and advisory committee member Keith Smith warmed to the idea of a bond issue to fund improvements to parks citywide.
“It is a lot of money being spread everywhere,” said Smith. “Our baseball fields are subpar, at best.”
Laudato said there’s “only so much” the city can do with existing revenue.
“I personally believe a bond would solve two things: it would provide a form of universal feedback and also enable projects to get done [if approved].”
But the committee is a long way from formally recommending Council place a bond issue on the ballot. Mytinger said the committee and City Council first need to revise and approve updates to the Parks Master Plan, possibly incorporating it into the city’s Comprehensive Master Plan, which is a blueprint for the city’s development.
Committee members also want Mytinger to develop cost estimates for planned improvements at the city’s parks as part of the review of the parks master plan.
“My reason for bringing up the financial estimates is, when you get the chance to look at finances for each of those things, it helps people with the prioritization process,” said Laudato.
Mytinger said estimates for converting Wilcox Park, a 22-acre area off Route 303 across from Thomas Heritage Park, to a soccer complex could cost up to $1.9 million, based on five-year-old estimates.
“Those kinds of numbers were never in the budget, even for the engineering portion,” he added.
FB: The Gateway News/Bob Gaetjens