On Thursday morning, the park district’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to enter into a 50-year contract with the city to allow the park district to redevelop, renovate, operate and maintain Cascade Park.
What started out as a jaw-dropping announcement surprise by then-Mayor Bill Grace in July 2011 that the city was not, nor would it be in the future, in the position to care for the run-down park, has since turned into an agreement between the city and Metro Parks that promises to rejuvenate the park. Grace made his announcement the same day the city adopted a 25-year master plan for the park, a document that may now be incorporated into the master plan Metro Parks develops.
But it wasn’t until Mayor Holly Brinda replaced Grace in the city’s top job that serious talks between the city and the park district began.
The three park district board members passed a resolution Thursday that authorizes a contract and memorandum of understanding detailing how the relationship between the two groups will work for the next five decades. It was quite different from the months Elyria officials mulled before signing off on the agreement a couple of weeks ago.
“Thank God,” board member Sherrill “Cookie” McLoda said enthusiastically when Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik announced the resolution detailing the agreement.
There was little discussion aside from assurances that Ziemnik accurately conveyed to the city that the parks district requires final authority on the park.
“The agreement was drafted so basically we will have the final say once we have solicited their comments and participation,” Ziemnik said.
Board member Bob Campana thanked Attorney Dennis O’Toole, former director Dan Martin and Ziemnik for the months of work, discussion and negotiation that went into the final agreement.
“How long has this been in the works?” Campana said. “I think we have been thinking about this for a few years.”
Not quite, Martin said.
“But it sure felt like it,” he added.
All three members applauded before moving on with the meeting.
Now that the agreement has been signed, Ziemnik said he and Brinda will sit down to discuss how the next year and a half will work before the park district takes over. A master plan for the park has to be created, in addition to public meetings and a fundraising campaign for capital improvements.
“We’ve always known this was not going to happen overnight, but we are working on a timetable that will keep things progressing,” he said.
Once the Metro Parks takes over, the agreement says that the city will provide trash collection, water, sewage and electricity to the park, waive all building and permit fees associated with the park and provide law enforcement services as well as aid in fundraising for park improvements.
The park district will relocate a section of road near the sledding hill in the area known as “19 Acres,” reconfigure the picnic area, convert abandoned road sections to walking trails, reconfigure parking at the Nature Center and evaluate the feasibility of an amphitheater in the park.
Metro Parks is also committing to invest upwards of $2 million in the park.
Before the city turns over day-to-day operations, it will spend between $1.4 million and $1.5 million and several projects — the East Falls sewer repair and deck rehabilitation project behind the Elyria Police Department, the Two Falls rehabilitation project, a new sanitary sewer that runs through the park and erosion work along the west bank from Ford Road heading north — will have been completed.
“We are looking at it as a partnership with investments on both sides,” Brinda said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.