April 19, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria has much to spend on Cascade Park

ELYRIA — Call it an expensive parting gift.

Before the city turns over the day-to-day operations of Cascade Park to the Lorain County Metro Parks — assuming City Council and the Parks Board approve the proposed deal — a great deal of money will be spent by the city on projects in the historic park to address issues that have plagued it for years.

This year, several projects will start or finish in Cascade Park and the ending price tag should be between $1.4 million and $1.5 million.

And, while none of the money will come from the city’s general fund, which will be strapped for cash as the city looks to cut at least $1.7 million from its budget, securing the grants for the project was an undertaking solely of the city. It’s the investment in the park Mayor Holly Brinda said is needed to make the deal a partnership with both the city and Metro Parks having an equal stake in the park’s future.

Brinda has long said the agreement does not absolve the city from spending money in Cascade Park. There will always be costs associated with the park even after Metro Parks begins its overseer duties.

Under the proposal, the city would provide trash collection, water, sewage and electricity 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.

It’s the various improvement projects that add up to big bucks this year.

Parks and Recreation Director Frank Gustoff said this year the city will complete the East Falls sewer repair and deck rehabilitation project on the observation deck behind the Elyria Police Department, complete the Two Falls rehabilitation project, install a new sanitary sewer that runs through the park and address erosion along the west bank from Ford Road heading north.

“When it’s done, it will be very nice because it will look at some of the issues we have had with the park for years,” he said. “Addressing the erosion will extend the life of the park.”

Erosion has for years eaten away at a road that runs through the park. The project plans to basically rebuild the west bank, add new nature vegetation and place large boulders along the edge to act as a buffer. The work will create wildlife habitats and fishing pools within the river.

The sewer project will likewise be a huge undertaking. It will include going under the Black River to Washington Avenue and addresses concerns of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The majority of the work in the park will begin this spring and will continue until October. Gustoff said workers have to be out of the river by April 1 to prevent interference with the fish that swim up the river to spawn per the directives of the Ohio Department of Nature Resources.

Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik said the parks district did not ask the city to do work before they would agree to a deal. Instead, in early talks with former Mayor Bill Grace, the projects were laid out as a projects in progress that the city would like to finish.

“So, naturally, we didn’t want them to be left undone,” he said. “I think both sides were confident the work would be done, but it’s just best to have it spelled out in the contract.”

Ziemnik said Elyria is doing its fair share of infrastructure improves, but Metro Parks is also committing to invest upwards of $2 million in the park as well.

“We are looking at it as a partnership with investments on both sides,” he said.

The proposed contract spells out several items the Park District plans to address, including relocating a section of road near the sledding hill in the area known as “19 acres,” reconfiguring the picnic area, converting the abandoned road sections to walking trails, reconfiguring parking at the Nature Center and evaluating the feasibility of an amphitheater in the park.

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