By Kevin Kelley
Mayor Eileen Patton wants to emphasize the “park” in Fairview Park.
Last week, the Patton administration proposed a three-year, $536,000 plan to improve the city’s parks. Under the plan, $152,000 will be spent this year, $194,000 in 2015 and $190,000 in 2016.
Much of the focus will be on Nelson Russ Park, located off MacBeth Avenue. Named after the city’s first recreation director, the park is largely empty after the recreation department headquarters was relocated to the Gemini Center when that facility opened in 2008. The city’s safety town for children was also relocated to the Gemini Center.
A long-term plan for Nelson Russ Park will be determined this year. Possible features for the site include a tree nursery, a playground and soccer fields, Patton told West Life.
Under the plan, $30,000 has been earmarked this year for resurfacing the Nelson Russ parking lot. Fifty-thousand dollars will be used to implement whatever plan is decided on for the park in 2015 and 2016.
The city’s four other parks will also see improvements under the plan.
“We tried to touch on all the parks,” recreation Director Kenn Kaminski said.
All parks will have new signage installed. At Grannis Park, located off West 202nd Street, the rec department will install seven new trees, which Kaminski said will improve drainage problems. Playground equipment now at Morton Park will be relocated to Grannis, and benches and picnic tables will be installed later this year. Next year, basketball courts there will be resurfaced and new hoops installed. In 2016, a pavilion area will be added at an estimated cost of $19,000.
At Morton Park, located at West 223rd Street and Morton Avenue, 12 trees and a shade area will be installed this year, and the tennis courts will be resurfaced. New playground equipment paid for largely through a state grant will also be installed this summer. The park’s restrooms will be renovated in 2016 under the proposal.
At Bain Park, steps will be installed along North Park Drive later this year. In 2016, the roof on a pavilion will be replaced and the restroom facilities renovated.
The focus will be on athletic and sports fields at Bohlken Park, the 25-acre park located south of Westgate shopping center. A new fence will be added to Field No. 4 this year, with lights coming in 2016. In 2015, basketball courts will be resurfaced and the hoops replaced.
Tri-City Park, located off Westwood Avenue and co-owned with Westlake and Rocky River, is not part of the city’s park improvement plan.
Despite the difficult financial climate of the past several years, Patton said she is confident the plan can be implemented. The $152,000 to be spent this year will come from both the city’s general fund and its parks maintenance fund.
The Patton administration’s budget for 2015 estimates expenditures to exceed revenues by approximately $2 million. The budget will be balanced using surplus funds from other years, though the conservative budgeting approach used by the city means the final shortfall may not be as bad as the budget estimate.
Despite the budgeting challenges, Patton said providing quality parks is a priority for her administration. Younger families that are moving into the city need parks for their children to play in, she noted.
Patton and Kaminski said the parks improvement plan will not jeopardize ongoing maintenance at the Gemini Center, as money has been budgeted for anticipated capital projects at that facility.
Members of City Council, who must approve the park plan appropriations, are scheduled to tour the city’s parks Saturday morning with Kaminski and Patton.