December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County Metro Parks board unveils plan for future

James E. Ziemnik, Lorain County Metro Parks director, and Cookie McLoda, board chairman, discuss the future plans of the Lorain County Metro Parks with the Chronicle-Telegram on Tuesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

James E. Ziemnik, Lorain County Metro Parks director, and Cookie McLoda, board chairman, discuss the future plans of the Lorain County Metro Parks with the Chronicle-Telegram on Tuesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Having many individual jewels in the Lorain County Metro Parks crown standing alone does nothing to advance the highly regarded park district, which is why park officials unveiled a 10-year plan with a goal to connect many of them.

The plan, unveiled Tuesday, comes as Metro Parks board members are weighing whether to ask voters to approve an increase in its operating levy in November.

The district doesn’t have the money to pull off the next 10 years of goals and recommendations, said Director Jim Ziemnik, noting the goals would cost $17 million to $18 million.

A 10-year, 1.3-mill levy that brings in about $7.9 million per year comprises the bulk of the Metro Parks’ roughly $10 million annual budget. The rest comes from revenue, grants and donations.

Board members will decide at a meeting next month whether to add 0.2 mill, which would bring the total brought in by the levy to a little more than $9 million, or add 0.3 mill, which would bring the levy to about $9.8 million per year.

The owner of a $100,000 home would pay 88 cents a month more for the 0.3-mill option.

Sherrill “Cookie” McLoda, board chairwoman, said the board will use a presentation about the plan today to gauge how county residents would feel about additional millage. She said the board knows a straight renewal will not get them the capital to advance toward its big goals but it will act accordingly.

A poll conducted in late 2013 is bolstering belief that an additional millage would be met favorably. Ziemnik said the poll by the Public Service Institute at Lorain County Community College, figures support of a new levy could be as high as 65 percent.

At the top of the capital projects list is the renovation of Cascade Park in Elyria.

Ziemnik said the Metro Parks will assume control of the historic park Jan. 1 from the city of Elyria, and by the end of 2015 be ready to unveil the park’s master plan. From there, it will be another five to six years to upgrade Cascade Park.

Metro Parks plans to spend $2 million at Cascade Park, with an additional $1.5 million in sponsorships, grants and donations.

Other plans include connecting various parks throughout Lorain County — Wellington Reservation to state Route 18, state Route 18 to the North Coast Inland Trail in Oberlin, Bridgeway Trail in Lorain to Lake Erie, Indian Hollow Reservation to a small wetland park in Grafton and Amherst Beaver Creek Reservation to Hollstein Reservation.

The Metro Parks also sees a need to develop a park on the Sheffield/Sheffield Lake border. An area near Harris Road in Sheffield is being mapped out as a possible location because the potential exists to connect it to Ferndale Park in Sheffield Lake.

Between 2004 and 2014, the park district has grown from a little more than 8,500 acres to nearly 10,000 acres. Additions have included the Wellington Reservation, Columbia Reservation, Mercy Health and Recreation Center in Amherst, Miller Nature Preserve in Avon and the restoration of Lakeview Park in Lorain.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

HEAR THE PLAN

  • Residents interested in learning about the park district’s vision may attend one of the unveiling sessions 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. today at Mercy Health & Recreation Center, 47160 Hollstein Drive, Amherst.