ELYRIA — The Lorain County Metro Parks is willing to invest a minimum of $2 million into Cascade Park in exchange for the sole authority to develop the historic park’s master plan and handle operations for the next 50 years.
The counter-proposal to the city of Elyria’s initial offering, which was made public Thursday, was drafted after numerous back and forth sessions with attorneys. It is different in many ways from an offer city officials made several weeks ago, which called for the creation of a three-member joint Cascade Park Board and a five-year commitment.
Metro Parks Director James Ziemnik said the Metro Parks proposal outlines exactly what it has sought from the beginning — a longer commitment and more control.
“We know Elyria has their Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, but those extra levels of bureaucracy make it hard to get things done, and that is never how we have operated,” Ziemnik said. “The city is welcome to form an advisory board, but that is as much as it can function. We will share the master plan, but we can’t let them control this.”
Mayor Holly Brinda said she would not comment on the proposal, which was sent to her office for review Thursday afternoon.
“I don’t think their tactic of forwarding their counter proposal to the media before it is received in this office represents good faith negotiations,” Brinda said. “In the span of two hours, we received two proposals — one from their attorney and one from their executive director.”
Ziemnik said Metro Parks operates very openly with appreciation of all citizen comment and the undertaken of public meetings. If the Cascade Park deal happens, Elyrians could expect the same.
“We are not trying to negotiate in the media, but this is a public document that is out there, and once it’s out there we have to make it available upon request,” he said. “We made it public because it’s a public record. Our board wants to button this thing up and get an agreement in place.”
The Chronicle-Telegram has made repeated public records requests for proposals related to Cascade Park, and Metro Parks officials had assured reporters that the document would be available immediately upon completion.
The two documents Brinda refers to include a 12-page agreement as well as a one-page supplemental document that in three paragraphs speaks to the financial commitment of the Metro Parks.
The $2 million investment will be made between 2015 and 2025 and could represent any combination of park district funds, grants or donations.
The supplemental document also states Metro Parks will hold a series of public meetings in 2014 to collect input for a master plan. The earliest Metro Parks would assume management of Cascade and Elywood parks would be January 2015.
A two-year period between 2013 and 2015 would be used for fundraising.
The supplement document, Brinda said, “makes a vast difference.”
“We will take their counter proposal into consideration, present it to the committee that has already been formed and will get back to Metro Parks in a timely fashion with our response,” Brinda said.
The crux of the Metro Parks agreement may focus on aspects of time and control to complete projects, but it also outlines the roles the city and Metro Parks would have in future operations.
Under the proposal, the city would provide trash collection, water, sewage and electric services to the park, waive all building and permit fees associated with the park, provide law enforcement services, and complete various improvement projects. The city would also aid in fundraising for the park improvements.
In exchange, Metro Parks would develop a master plan, handle park and facility improvements, write grant applications for the park and handle park programming.
“We are basically saying let us run the show on this. Let us build it, staff it and develop the programming,” Ziemnik said. “It’s what we do.”
The Metro Parks, supported by county taxes, has 25 major attractions, including Amherst Beaver Creek reservation, the Splash Zone in Oberlin and Wellington Reservation in Wellington Township. The proposal presented Thursday is very similar to the one Metro Parks forged with Lorain years ago concerning Lakeview Park.
That agreement stretches for 50 years. The 50-year agreement that is being proposed for Elyria is the bare minimum the Metro Parks is willing to consider at this time, Ziemnik said.
Like the Lakeview agreement, should the city decide to back away from the deal, Metro Parks would seek repayment of any investment made to Cascade Park.
“What we bring to the table is the people’s trust, the businessman’s trust,” Ziemnik said. “We represent the entire county of Lorain, all people of Lorain and we have a responsibility to them not to squander their money.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or email@example.com.
Read the Metro Parks’ proposal: