April 21, 2014

Elyria
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Public meetings on Cascade Park’s future scheduled

ELYRIA — The city wants to hear what residents have to say about the future of Cascade Park.

Lack of funds to maintain the grounds of Cascade Park in Elyria has the park’s future in doubt.

Lack of funds to maintain the grounds of Cascade Park in Elyria has the park’s future in doubt.

There will be two public meetings, 7 p.m. Aug. 9 and 7 p.m. Aug. 30, in City Council chambers.

Mayor Bill Grace said both meetings will include a brief overview of the park’s master plan that was recently approved by City Council and a brief pictorial tour through the park showing the positives and the challenges.

It will be followed by an open discussion on how best to address the issues by either developing a plan for bringing in additional revenue for the park or working on an agreement with the Lorain County Metro Parks for them to run it.

The meetings will be the first time the public will be able to voice their concerns following a revelation by Grace at a recent Council meeting that the city may not be able to afford to operate the park to its full potential any longer.

Due to the many costly improvements the park needs, Grace told Council members the time has come for the city to think about turning the park over to another entity, namely the Metro Parks, if its leaders are willing to enter into such an agreement.

“The idea is to have the first meeting, get some thoughts and ideas on the table and then take a few weeks to consider what has been said,” Grace said. “Then we can come back for the second meeting and have some kind of foundation to work on going forward.”

Shortly afterward, Grace said the city will put out a citywide telephone poll to gauge the community’s feelings on what direction to take with the park.

Grace’s statements about Cascade were surprising as he has always championed Cascade as the jewel of the city and an asset that should not be given up. However, he recently learned that he was not the first city leader to think the Metro Parks would be the best stewards of Cascade Park.

Law Director Terry “Pete” Shilling was doing some research on possible deed restrictions on the park when he uncovered a letter from 1970 written by then-Mayor Leonard Reichlin to City Council detailing in two-pages why Cascade Park should be turned over the Metro Parks.

“In that, he mentioned there was hundreds of thousands of dollars of needed improvement and maintenance to the park and even at that time he felt the city was unable to meet those obligations,’’ Grace said. “In those 40 years, those hundreds of thousands of dollars have translated to millions of dollars. So, I think it’s fair to say the needs have been long term.”

Grace said erosion is a big problem in the park, but the issues are also compounded by a lack of major investments. Over the years, there have been minor improvements to the restroom, concessions stand and also the renovation of the former bath house into the nature center. In addition, there have been improvements to the ford that gives access to both the Cascade and Elywood portions of the park, which is separated by the Black River.

Beyond that, Grace said major improvements to the park have been scarce.

“I think over the years, the neighborhood parks made Cascade Park a little less relevant,” he said. “Plus, people have been less inclined to support community and public assets.’’

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.