By Kevin Kelley
Mayor Eileen Patton and several members of Fairview Park City Council all say they want to see upgrades at the community’s neighborhood parks.
Last month, 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.
Patton and Recreation Department Director Kenn Kaminski invited council members to tour the city’s parks April 5 to discuss proposed improvements. Councilwoman at Large Peggy Cleary, Ward 1 Councilman Brian McDonough and Ward 5 Councilman Pete Matia took the tour, conducted from a van borrowed from the city’s Senior Life Office.
McDonough has been the most vocal in pressing the Patton administration to spend money on the parks. The Ward 1 councilman said there has been a disparity in the amount of attention the parks have received.
“Over the years, some have been neglected,” McDonough told West Life. “All five should shine.”
The most neglected, McDonough said, is Grannis Park, located in his ward off West 202nd Street. The park was established after an adjacent apartment developer donated the land to the city. McDonough, who noted Grannis Park currently has no signage, would like to see a small parking lot added there.
Under the Patton administration’s plan, new signage will be installed at all city parks. The rec department’s plan for Grannis includes the installation of 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.
Matia is most concerned with Nelson Russ Park, now empty after the recreation department headquarters was relocated to the Gemini Center when that facility opened in 2008.
“Nelson Russ is an abandoned park,” Matia said. A long-term plan for the park is yet to be determined. Possible features for the site include a tree nursery, a playground and soccer fields.
“I want playground equipment first,” Matia said, noting the growing number of young families in the neighborhood.
Patton, who acknowledges the park currently has a poor appearance, said she would also like to see playground equipment there for the same reasons as the Ward 5 councilman. Because families with young children are moving into Fairview Park, providing quality parks is a priority, the mayor said.
Referring to the possibilities for improvement at Nelson Russ Park, Patton called the park as “an open canvas.”
Patton also pointed to the fact that her administration invested $64,000 in 2009, at the height of the Great Recession, to purchase 113,000 square feet of property adjacent to the 2.2-acre park for future expansion. That expansion has not come to fruition yet, the mayor said, due to budget constraints in recent years.
Cleary, McDonough and Matia criticized the service department’s decision to allow construction firms working on recent sewage and water projects to use Nelson Russ park as a storage and staging area over the winter. Mounds of dirt and gravel and a construction vehicle recently occupied the park’s parking lot.
Patton said if the material had been stored along city streets instead of the park’s parking lot, it could have caused a safety problem when snowplows attempted to clear the streets. She also said extra dirt deposited there can later be used to level off the park’s fields.
The $19 million, 930,000 square-foot Gemini Center has been the shining star of the city’s recreation department in the past six years. Cleary said increased attention to the neighborhood parks is the next logical step for the department.
“Not everyone belongs to the Gemini Center,” Cleary said. “Not everyone is going to go there.”
The mayor and council members say they all want residents’ input regarding investment in the city’s neighborhood parks.