ELYRIA — A $2 million carrot Lorain County Metro Parks is dangling in front of city officials may not be enough to convince them to give up control of Cascade Park.
Three days after the county agency presented the city with a counterproposal concerning Cascade Park, Mayor Holly Brinda said she was taken aback by what little control and input the city would have if it agreed to the terms as presented. Brinda detailed the proposal for members of the City Council-appointed Cascade Park Negotiating Committee on Monday afternoon.
“I do not doubt their good intentions,” Brinda said. “The Metro Parks has a reputation of improving parks and delivering quality programming. But we have a lot of good things to offer as well, and I was hoping for more collaboration and cooperation in the agreement.”
Councilwoman Brenda Kay Davis, D-2nd Ward, said she is concerned with where negotiations are at currently. The park is in her ward.
“They are going to be running the show, and we won’t have any input,” Davis said.
Metro Parks Director James Ziemnik said sole control of the master plan and future programming is important to Metro Parks because its reputation would be on the line in addition to the hefty investment it would make of county tax revenue.
As such, the counterproposal presented to Brinda on Friday removed much of the language regarding joint governing of the park and the creation of a governing board. Ziemnik said the group would bog down progress with an unnecessary level of bureaucracy.
The two groups have not scheduled a time to revisit negotiations although Ziemnik said he hoped an agreement would be signed by the end of the year. Brinda said that timetable could work, but first would like to get the input of the Parks and Recreation Board. Those talks will continue at 5 p.m. today.
Board chairman Sam Battle said he needed more time to digest the information presented Monday.
“It doesn’t look like what I thought it would based on the conversations we had,” Battle said.
Law Director Scott Serazin said he foresees some changes to the proposal, which is typical in negotiations.
“This is just the Lorain agreement with Elyria plugged into it,” he said. “There is nothing unique to our circumstance or preferences.”
Parks and Recreation Director Frank Gustoff said Cascade Park should not be compared to Lorain’s Lakeview Park, which is now under the control of Metro Parks.
“This is a different situation as it’s in the center of town and a part of a working city Parks Department,” he said. “We have worked with many groups dedicated to the longevity of Cascade Park including the Friends of Cascade Park that has deep purse strings that should not be ignored.”
If the devil is in the details, Brinda said the details of this proposal leave too many questions. Not only was the idea of the park board removed, the Metro Parks is proposing no input from Council, no official working arrangement with current city employees, no mention of the trusts, organizations or groups already affiliated with the park and wants to handle all future grant writing for the park.
But Brinda said residents need to understand the city not only has a viable Parks Department — unlike Lorain which contracts out such services to the Greater Cleveland YMCA — but is in the process of making a $900,000 investment in the park. Approximately $80,000 has already been spent to create a master plan for the park that could fall by the wayside should Metro Parks move forward with plans to create a plan of their own.
“There is no doubt we have the ability to leverage funding to make capital improvements in the park. That is not our concern,” Brinda said. “What we are concerned about is our ability to operate the park over a long period of time.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or email@example.com.