December 20, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
29°F
test

Memo clears sticking points in Cascade negotiations

ELYRIA — A deal between Elyria and Lorain County Metro Parks about the future of Cascade Park came down to an important seven-page document that clarified how a future partnership will work.

If a deal is made, there will be a formal contract between the two parties and a memorandum of understanding that will clarify the intentions of the city and the park district so the full sentiment behind the contract is understood for generations to come.

Mayor Holly Brinda, who months ago expressed concern that Elyria could be shut out of future talks concerning development of the historic park when the Metro Parks presented a proposal that called for them to have final say on the park’s master plan, is now hopeful an agreement could be signed by year’s end. Brinda will present both documents to the Elyria Parks board and the City Council-appointed Cascade Park Committee at a joint meeting 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Brinda said the development of the memorandum was spearheaded by the city.

“It was important to us because we wanted reassurances that there will be an opportunity for joint planning, joint development, joint participation and decision making in the park,” she said. “(Lorain County Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik) and I both sat down together with our legal counsel and worked this out to ensure we will continue to work collaboratively.”

Neither the city nor park district has voted to act on the proposed documents, but Brinda said it has her approval and represents her final recommendation to Council.

“I think its going to be a great relationship,” Brinda said. “The Metro Parks will bring great resources and expertise and we can bring the passion of our citizens and quality programming.”

While the contract clearly spells out the lead role the Metro Parks will have, the second document ensures Elyria has a say in the development of the master plan and a budget and applying for grants.

“This master plan will be the culmination of many meetings between the park district and city, and includes extensive input by the mayor of Elyria, Elyria Parks and Recreation Department, the administration of Elyria, Elyria citizen groups and individuals resident in the city,” it says.

“The city is insistent that the planning process, the development process, the funding process and the periodic review process all be done on a joint consultation basis, meaning the representatives from city and park district meet at regular intervals to discuss each process and to come together with a consensus for use with the park district’s plan of operation,” the memorandum states.

Ziemnik said he was fine with the additional document because it spelled out what the city and Metro Parks have long said it both wanted in an agreement.

“We’re very happy and satisfied with the final document because it best serves the needs of those in the community,” he said. “A lot of things were talked about and this memorandum just outlines it. From our perspective as a public entity, it’s important that we can communicate clearly what the arrangement will be. This removes the guesswork and is open and honest.”

Ziemnik said he should be able to present the documents for the park board’s approval roughly a week after the city does the same with Council.

Cascade Park is unique because several community support groups are dedicated to preserving the park and provide funding for pet projects. The memorandum protects those groups and the funds that flow into the park from them. Particularly, all monies for use in the park received through the Ely Wagner Trust will remain under the control of the city.

While work on the park will be completed in two phases, the memorandum stipulates Elyria will immediately make improvements including work on the trail bridge, a sewer installation project and repair work to the deck platform behind the Elyria police station. The park district will look at four key areas for its phase one projects — 19 acres, Elywood Park, Cascade Park picnic area and trails between the falls.

The contract also spells out a 50-year agreement between the two entities as well as who will be responsible for certain repairs, projects and responsibilities going forward.

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 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.

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.

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