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Friday, June 30th, 2017

City plans to relocate Lake Shore Drive

Changes coming for Celina park

By William Kincaid
CELINA - City officials in the coming years want to relocate Lake Shore Drive behind what is commonly referred to as the hot water hole so larger boats can cast off from the docks there, mayor Jeff Hazel revealed on Thursday morning.
Hazel, while addressing Grand Lake Rotarians, said city officials want to move forward with a "pretty aggressive plan" to develop the Bryson Park District along Lake Shore Drive.  
Though he said he can't talk about specific details until Mercer County Probate Court Judge Mary Pat Zitter signs off on the plan, he did disclose that officials have proposed relocating Lake Shore Drive. The move would allow for increased boat traffic and provide a safe walking path around the park.
"It's going to go behind the hot water hole," he said.
Only pontoon boats and smaller craft can make it underneath the bridge dividing the hot water hole and Grand Lake, Hazel said. Building a new, more elevated bridge could cost well over $1 million, making it impractical.
"You can't just put a higher bridge up. That (would mean) you have to re-engineer the whole road both ways because it has to have a certain minimum slope by (Ohio Department of Transportation) standards," he said.
An easier solution would be to relocate the winding road to be behind the hot water hole, Hazel said.
"If we go behind the hot water hole, people still have the ability to drive through there," he said.
The current bridge would be removed, and in its stead would be installed a "higher arch walk bridge" to make it part of "the walking trail in there and biking trail," Hazel said.
"It allows for larger boats to go in and out as well, so it will increase the boat traffic," he said. "I don't want everybody going down to the state park boat ramp, I want them to use (the hot water hole) and so it makes a lot of sense to do that."
Hazel said he didn't have a cost estimate but said officials would pay for the project using the street account funded through income-tax revenue. They would also look for potential grants, he said.
Hazel said this morning the relocation would not occur for a few years and would not delay any residential street projects.
"It could be a few years down the road," he said of the ambitious proposal.
City council members in April officially established the long-discussed Bryson Park District along Lake Shore Drive to encompass Mercelina, Pullman Bay and Lakeshore parks. The action was necessary to meet the requirements of a $1.2 million state capital grant to pay for the Harley Jones Rotary Memorial Amphitheater, slated for construction in the park district this fall.
The Bryson Park District will contain the former Versa Pak and the Mercelina Mobile Court properties that the city acquired with assistance from the Bryson Trust Fund, which is managed by First Financial Bank in Celina.
City officials in 2015 borrowed $2.64 million from the Mercer County treasurer's office to buy the two lakeshore properties. The Mercelina land cost $2.2 million, and the Larbus property cost $745,000. Both will be included in the Bryson Park District.
The city contributed $300,000 toward the acquisition and borrowed the rest on behalf of the Bryson Trust Fund to finalize the deal while the trust officers committed to paying 90 percent of the purchase price.
"That gives them a say-so over what goes in the park. The layout has to be for a long-term element," he said, adding negotiations have dragged on for a long time.
Zitter in December approved a petition outlining six restrictions, capping a yearlong negotiation between city and trust fund officials.
The restrictions outline how the park can be developed. Any and all improvements, additions, modifications, construction or enhancement on the land that the fund helped to purchase must be preapproved by trust fund officers and the probate court.
The two sides are still working on the details of what will go into the park, Hazel said.
"This has been in the process for almost two years," Hazel said. "So it isn't something the city has the decision to do whatever we want."
Hazel said the plan is awaiting Zitter's approval, whereupon it will be released to the public. It contains relative locations of playground areas and walking and biking trails, among other features.
"Mercer Health has come forward. We have discussed it. They would like to fund at least the basic fit trail," he said, noting other entities have also shown interest in donating to the park district.
Yet, Hazel reiterated that when city officials announced their intention to purchase the two lakeshore properties, they said it would take three to four years to begin developing it.
"The whole idea behind this is finding this to be a community element," he said. "We're going to work within the confines of the trust requirement from Ed Bryson's will. I'm OK with that."
But he believes it will be worth the wait.
"The lake might be a little green but you know what? How many other cities in the country can be on a lake? It makes us a tourist destination," he said.
Additional online story on this date
CELINA - Mayor Jeff Hazel says The Harley Jones Rotary Memorial Amphitheater will be built this year on the former Mercelina Park ball diamond that was removed after additional ball fields were created in town. [More]
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