By Tim Cox
Celina's park system has played host to more than 100,000 people this year, estimates compiled by the city recreation office show.
"I don't think people realize how much our parks are used," parks and recreation Director Jeff Fortkamp said.
Fortkamp's final tally shows 104,493 people have used or visited the city's parks in 2005. That figure includes young people who participated in baseball, softball, football and soccer programs and an estimated number of spectators at those games. The total number also includes attendance figures from Grand Lake Mariners games played at Westview Park, the estimated attendance at concerts performed at North Shore Park and estimated attendance at the Freedom Days and Governors Cup regatta race events that were held on the lakefront.
The overall total also assumes 20,000 park visitors associated with the Celina Lake Festival and includes the 22,362 people who visited Bryson Pool during the summer.
But the figure is not all-inclusive, and park attendance is likely far higher than the estimate shows, Fortkamp said. "This number doesn't include use of the tennis courts or the playgrounds or people just walking their dog," Fortkamp said.
A lot of people like to eat lunch in the park, especially along the lakefront, and those figures also are not included in the estimate, Fortkamp said.
Park usage likely will spiral even higher after completion of the West Bank Rotary Walkway, city officials say. The city is now seeking bids for the mile-long concrete path that will connect the city's lakefront parkland to the state boat ramp on West Bank Road. The parks department will be in charge of mowing the grassy strip that will run next to the path and otherwise maintaining the path.
"We have an excellent park system with a lot of good offerings," Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said. "Celina should be proud of its parks."
Hazel said he believes the new path along West Bank Road will draw consistent numbers of visitors throughout spring, summer and fall, with plenty of "fishing, biking, running" and other activities.