After hearing an assessment of park properties that recommends transferring ownership of 12 and possibly closing six others, the park and recreation commission wants to talk to firms about developing a comprehensive plan for the city’s park system.
“We want to see how much it [a plan] would cost,” Anthony Spano, the commission’s chairman, said Thursday. “We’d seek private and city funding to pay for the [study]. If it’s too costly, the commission would look for an alternative. We want a study that would give us a plan for the next 10 to 15 years and the best strategic locations for the parks.”
City council authorized the commission in May to seek proposals but not to spend any city money on a study.
With council voting Wednesday to put a charter amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot to eliminate the park and recreation commission, it’s doubtful council would agree to authorize the commission to proceed with a study.
John Bralich, senior geographic information system manager for Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies, provided details from an assessment of the park properties Thursday.
Bralich’s report recommends the commission consider closing six locations: Borts Pool and Field on the West Side, Buckeye Plat Field on the South Side, the lower portion of Gibson Field on the South Side, Hillman Park on the South Side, Evergreen Park on the South Side, and MacDonnell Playground on the North Side. The YSU proposal also suggested the city turn over ownership of a dozen park properties to various entities including the school district, Mill Creek MetroParks and the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority. Also recommended is the demolition of bleachers at eight park properties. The city is spending $97,000 to demolish the bleachers at one of those properties — the South High Field House.
Of the 36 parks reviewed by YSU, 34 of them have experienced population declines within a half-mile radius since 1990, including 10 that have declines of 44 percent to 60 percent. The city’s population has declined by about 30 percent since 1990.
The two properties that didn’t have declines in the half-mile radius are Children’s Park, closed since 1982, and Norman “Nick” Johnson Park, which Bralich called “ugly.” Both are on the East Side.
No parks will be closed without public input, Spano said. Bralich added that he isn’t telling the commission to close any parks, and the city should first have public hearings and hire a firm for a master plan before making decisions.
“We want deeper analysis to serve the citizens of Youngstown better and make the quality of life the best it can be,” Spano said. The city paid $13,000 to YSU for the assessment.