April 16, 2014

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Meetings set to talk Amherst rec facility

AMHERST — The Lorain County Metro Parks will host a public meeting Nov. 2 to discuss the city’s proposed Wellness Center.

Residents will get the chance to ask questions and discuss ideas for the project with Metro Park officials at the 7:30 p.m. session at the Amherst Beaver Creek Reservation Visitor Center on North Lake Street next to the police station.

“We want to try and figure out where everybody is at this point, what’s important for both sides and develop a timeline,” Metro Parks Director Dan Martin said. “We need to figure out how to move forward, and we want to do that publicly.”

The center, which has been estimated to cost from $5 million to $6 million, and targeted for a Jan. 1, 2013, opening, is planned for an 8-acre parcel of land donated to the parks by farming brothers Tom and Jim Hollstein. A second 13-acre piece of land given by Robert and Lori Campana of Lorain’s family-owned P.C. Campana Inc. would be preserved as a natural area encompassing the extension of an existing bikeway from the Beaver Creek Reservation north of Route 2.

The site for the center and nature preserve lies behind the Premier Toyota dealership on Cooper Foster Park Road, where revised plans for the rec center were unveiled Sept. 7.

Many figured the project dead after voters in the Amherst school district said no to a $26 million ballot issue in May that would have paid for part of a proposed $12 million facility.

While details are still being worked on, plans call for the center to resemble the park system’s popular Splash Zone in Oberlin, which has a multi-lane swimming pool, fitness facilities and land for an attached gymnasium to be built in the future.

Funding from the park district, grants and other sources are expected to supplant tax dollars, which will not be sought for the revised project.

The Metro Parks are partnering with the land donors, the city of Amherst, the dealership, Lorain County Community College, United Way and the Lorain County boards of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. The latter two organizations look to work with the parks to develop an outdoor water playground for people with special needs.

In a related development, the park district board is looking over 20-plus proposals and drawings from architectural firms that have submitted plans.

“Once all of the drawings come in, we will start to rank them and select firms for interviews,” Martin said. “In this economy a lot of people want this job. Now is the time (to build the center). We look to get a wonderful price.”

Park officials hope to announce an architect at their December meeting, Martin said.

“Hopefully by the time we open, the economy will have turned around.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.