Changes may be coming for Youngstown park programs

By David Skolnick


Sweeping changes could be coming to the city’s park and recreation programs and operations.

The city is poised to retain the services of Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies to help provide data needed to evaluate the 45 properties owned by the commission.

Park officials said in September that they were interested in hiring a consultant to conduct a long-term master plan for the 45 properties. The goal is to find out the best use of each property and how many properties are needed, said Robert Burke, park and recreation director.

“We’d like to have 10 to 15 quality parks,” said Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, chairman of city council’s parks and playground committee.

If council approves, the commission would hire YSU’s center for $13,000 — $5,000 from the city’s Community Development Agency and the rest from the park commission budget, Burke said. The center would do demographic analysis of the area within a half-mile radius to see if there is enough population to warrant keeping those parks open and give the city guidance on what to do with the properties, Burke said.

“If there are parks with no residents around them, why should we have them?” he said.

The report would be done by the summer, he said.

Meanwhile, beginning March 1, the city-owned Arlington Heights Recreation Center on Park Avenue will be open Saturdays, Burke said. The center — which has basketball courts, a weight room, exercise classes and other programs — is open weekdays.

The cost is $15 for a three-month membership. There are currently 179 members.

“Being open on Saturdays will increase our membership,” Burke said. “It makes recreation more accessible to people.”

Also, city officials are considering extending the days of operation for the North Side Pool, the only public pool in Youngstown.

Currently, it is open every day from 1 to 8 p.m. June 8 to Aug. 8.

Burke said he wants to extend the closing date another week or two with an eventual goal of keeping it open until Labor Day and opening it June 1.

“We need to see if we can extend the season,” Drennen said.

It costs about $96,000 annually to run the pool, which makes less than $10,000 annually from admission fees of $1.50 for adults and $1 for children.

Another option is to hire a company to manage the pool, which could save $10,000 to $20,000 a year, Burke said.

But some council members are concerned that having a company manage the pool could mean the loss of jobs, such as lifeguards and locker-room employees, at the facility that are usually given to local high-school and college students.

Hiring a firm to run the pool would be to “help save cost on maintenance and other areas,” Burke said. “I want to make it clear that those are summer jobs for our youth of Youngstown, and it will always be a place for the children of Youngstown to work at the pool.”

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