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Residents supported the position of the Youngstown Park and Recreation Commission, which again made it clear the city has no intention to lease mineral rights of park land to oil and gas companies.
There will be “no drilling or fracking in our parks,” commission Chairman Anthony Spano said Tuesday night.
Law Director Anthony Farris, representing Mayor Charles Sammarone, added that the mayor “has no intention of leasing land in city parks.”
City resident Kathleen Berry said she is still concerned because city officials are examining a plan to solicit offers to lease mineral rights on city-owned land, and park commissioners are appointed by city officials.
“I have a sincere — maybe naive — curiosity as to whether that poses a conflict of interest,” she added.
Officials have said there is no rush to move forward with the plan now that the city has more financial security with a new multimillion-dollar contract with V&M Star.
Berry also asked the commission if there are any current wells on park land and was told that there is a gas well in Stambaugh Park that’s no longer in use.
The commission also took feedback from residents and city officials about the South Fieldhouse and proposed city park master plan.
The city closed the old South High School fieldhouse in 2010, and now the city is in negotiations to possibly sell it.
Victoria Allen, city resident and block watch leader, asked if the fieldhouse was put out to bid publicly. Robert Rohrbaugh, assistant law director, said it was not openly marketed.
“We are negotiating with an interested party,” Rohr-baugh said.
Park Director Robert Burke said a privately owned school is interested in purchasing it. The fieldhouse is next to the Southside Academy charter school, which is operated by White Hat Management of Akron.
Farris reminded the commission and residents that it’s a “city administrative decision to sell or transfer property.”
He added the goal of any sale would be to cut losses in the cost of maintaining the property and to ensure that new owners would not allow it to become a dilapidated vacant structure.
Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, represents that neighborhood in which the fieldhouse is located and is a South High School alumna.
“It’s really sad to see the South High fieldhouse go,” she said.
She also maintained the city should add a park in her ward to provide options for youths and, she believes, help lower the crime rate there.
The park’s master plan calls for downsizing the parks to fit a declining city population, Spano said.
Youngstown has more than 200 acres of parks. Of the department’s 45 properties, 33 are used for park and recreational purposes.
Spano said he would rather have 15 to 20 “great parks” than 30 to 40 average or below-average parks.
“I’m sorry we have to downsize. ... We have a lot of land to take care of,” Spano said.
He said the commission will continue to seek public input on the master plan.