September 23, 2014

Elyria
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Metro Parks head: Cascade rebound possible

A fallen tree blocks a closed road in Cascade Park in Elyria. (Chronicle file photo)

A fallen tree blocks a closed road in Cascade Park in Elyria. (Chronicle file photo)

ELYRIA — Nobody has proposed marriage between Elyria and Lorain County Metro Parks regarding Cascade Park, but Tuesday’s first date went well.

“A partnership is like a marriage,” Metro Parks Director Daniel Martin told about 60 people at a public hearing at city hall on future management of the park. “We cannot take your park and fix it by ourselves, so there is no takeaway or giveaway. It’s a partnership.”

In an approximately 20-minute speech that combined high energy and soft sell, Martin said that with community cooperation, Cascade Park could be restored the way Lakeview Park in Lorain was after the Metro Parks took it over. Martin credited bipartisan political support in Lorain for raising $1.9 million for Lakeview Park.

“Nobody can raise money if there’s turmoil. The community has to be behind your project,” he said. “If you don’t want us, God bless you. But if you ask me, we’re going to take a hard look and see if we can’t help you.”

Martin

Martin

Metro Parks, which runs 24 county parks, has 58 full-time employees and an approximately $10 million annual budget, Martin said. In the last 20 years Martin has been with Metro Parks, between $75 million and $80 million has been raised.

While each community partnership is unique, there are four common characteristics, which Martin outlined in a handout to audience members:
• Communities contribute land or capital funding.
• Metro Parks contributes an equal amount.
• A community leader chairs a fundraising committee representing the private sector.
•  Metro Parks seeks private grants and foundation gifts.

Martin emphasized the need to set realistic fundraising goals, make informed decisions and maintain what is built.

“We are not miracle workers. This is hard work,” he said. “But it can get done if you want to make it happen.”

Resident Mark Hamister said the city can’t afford necessary improvements at the park that Metro Parks might be able to find the money for. Frank Gustoff, city parks and recreation director, said his department’s budget has been cut about $1.5 million since 2009.

“We have these beautiful set of parks in Elyria,” Hamister said. “The more we let them run down, the harder it will be to build them back up.”

Like Hamister, resident Nancy Tester supported the Metro Parks managing the park.

“If the park is restored to its natural beauty, more people will come down there,” Tester said. “The thugs will find somewhere else to go.”

However, resident Norm Failing said city taxpayers will need to support a police levy to provide additional security.

“You either support your community with some money or you shut up,” said Failing, who campaigned for last year’s failed police levy. “Some of the people in this community will not vote for a tax increase for anything.”

The Parks and Recreation Board is expected to decide on Sept. 8 whether to recommend Metro Parks management to the City Council which could vote on the proposal as early as Sept. 16. Council member Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, said he’d vote for Metro Parks management.

“That park has got to come back to life,” Tanner said. “Let’s let this happen.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

Cascade still amassing votes

Lorain County residents sure do love a good challenge. Despite entering the contest late, Cascade Park continues to move up in the vote tally for the Coca-Cola Live Positively contest.
As of Tuesday, the park ranked 16th in the nation with more than 72,000 votes. But a lot more votes are needed as the top parks in the race have a couple million votes.
Want to help? Go to www.livepositively.com/#/americasparks/vote.
Voting continues through Sept. 6.