Thursday, July 8th, 2010
By Janie Southard
Council seeks input for best use of park
  ST. MARYS - City officials want to hear from residents on ways to better utilize K. C. Geiger Park.
"After June, the park is pretty dull until SummerFest. I think we can make better use of it. I want St. Marys to be a destination and the park is a big part of that. What do people want? I'm looking for ideas, even though it may be years before we can do anything. We need some long-range plans," safety service director Tom Hitchcock told council's parks and recreation committee Tuesday evening.
The meeting's first discussion centered on use of the proposed acquisition of 4.5 acres adjacent to the park via the Miami Erie Canal. Although the authorization to purchase the acreage from a local church for $24,000 is set for second reading next week, Hitchcock is preparing for the possibility.
"I'm looking at maybe a couple multi-purpose fields - soccer, midget football. People could park at K. C. Geiger and get to the fields on an earthen bridge," Hitchcock said. The bridge would be constructed of dirt with culvert pipes that will allow the canal water to flow. Hitchcock said a steel bridge would be impossible because of the 8-foot clearance (from the waterline) requirement.
Beech Street residents Phyllis Luterbeck and Ruth Finke have property that adjoins the 4.5 acres. They are concerned about game fields behind their houses.
"I think there would be people walking through our yards to get to those fields," Finke said.
Luterbeck is concerned with more lights and noise, particularly at night.
"The lights at the park now are on until late at night," she said.
The committee of Robin Willoughby, chair, Pat McGowan and Bill Slemmons agreed that a fence, probably chain link, would be part of the project if the city does purchase the property.
Hitchcock said there will be no lights. Typically local soccer and midget football practice are afternoon/evening events.
"One thing to consider is who else may buy the property if we don't. What if an apartment (complex) goes up behind you?" Slemmons said. "If we do it, we'll do it nice."
Hitchcock also suggested an attraction that would pay for itself and help with park maintenance: a miniature golf course. "I think it's an ideal location. "We could charge a couple bucks a round. Maybe hold tournaments. I think it could be open at least until October. I'm not thinking some rinky dink thing. I would plan for a $200,000 investment," he said.
Jim Harris and Gary Newton, representing the St. Marys Rotary, hope the site becomes a handicapped-accessible park created by the New Bremen/New Knoxville Rotary Club's Sunshine Project.
Harris said the park would be available to the community but all the equipment would be handicapped accessible: climbing areas, swings, fountains - $200,000 of equipment.
Hitchcock said if that happened he would propose a spray park nearby. "Cost would be probably $25,000 ... but remember nothing happens without council approval," he said.
Newton suggested a nature/historic trail that would include the property of Indian trader James Girty of two centuries ago. He explained a winding trail with markers of nearby historic events.
The committee discussed a number of other options, including an ice rink, walking path along the St. Marys River, enlarging the sledding hill, rock climbing wall, etc.
Willoughby said following the meeting that improving the park can only improve the community. "I think anything we do will be a great asset," she said.
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