Youngstown council considering citywide park plan

By David Skolnick


City council will consider legislation today seeking proposals to hire a firm to develop a comprehensive plan for the city’s park system.

The firm hired would provide a long-term master plan for the park department’s 45 properties, said Robert Burke, park and recreation director.

The estimated cost of the plan isn’t known, and the city will seek money from various entities to pay at least a part of the expense, he said.

If approved by council, a firm could be selected by the park and recreation commission and the board of control in a few months, depending on the cost, Burke said.

“The study would help us determine what properties to get rid of and what ones we should focus our attention on to be used better,” he said. “We want to focus money on parks in the neighborhoods to get people to use them more.”

In January, city council agreed to hire Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies to do demographic work of city park properties to determine if there are enough people using those facilities. The cost was $13,000 — $5,000 from the city’s Community Development Agency and the rest from the park-commission budget.

The YSU work will be done in June and July with results provided shortly thereafter.

Of the city’s 45 properties, 33 are used for park and recreational purposes. The others are undeveloped land, a cemetery, various islands along Fifth Avenue, and a closed public swimming pool.

“We need to evaluate what we have and do we need all of the properties anymore,” said Mayor Charles Sammarone. “We have to find ways to save money. The city is going to run into a budget crunch in a few years, and we need to be ready.”

Also today, council will consider legislation to double the amount of money budgeted to replace damaged side-walks throughout the city.

The sidewalk-improvement budget has $140,000, $20,000 for each of the city’s seven wards. If approved today, that budget would increase to $280,000, $40,000 for each ward.

“The only issue is, you never have enough money,” Sammarone said. “You’ll please those who get sidewalks done, but we need a lot more money for this, so there will be some unhappy people who will have to wait. It’s like paving streets. Everyone wants their street paved, but we don’t have the money to do that.”

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