The Ottumwa Courier

December 12, 2012

Parks board hesitant to make unalterable changes

Shelter fee increase approved, city receives $28,000 in donations for Central Park stage

CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — People enjoy the parks system for its serenity and open areas, Parks Advisory Board members say, and a large sports complex doesn’t fit into that atmosphere.

At its Tuesday meeting, the board began reviewing the Parks Master Plan, which was crafted in 2006, to see if any improvements or changes need to be made.

They began by reviewing Ottumwa Park, which has seen a lot of changes since the plan was made, including ID signs, a nature observation blind, wetlands, hard-surface trails, sand volleyball courts and more playground equipment.

But a lot of the review could depend on what the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation plans to put money toward regarding a possible sports complex, said board president Bob Beisch.

“But even if it’s Legacy’s plan, that doesn’t mean that’s how it’s going to go,” said Councilman Brian Morgan. “I’m excited by what I see in Legacy’s plans, but what I’m not excited about is going into the parks, moving the campground around, filling in ponds.

“You think Bridge View tore this town apart ... you just wait.”

ORLF has suggested that a sports complex should be constructed somewhere within the city parks system, preferably close to downtown.

Councilman Bob Meyers said people enjoy the passive areas in town, and there are certain areas that should not be developed.

“People like their parks in this town,” Beisch said. “They really, really, really do. It’s one of the pluses of this town. Not everything needs to be built up.”

This original plan was the result of a months-long process that drew in expertise from several different organizations, Beisch said.

“We have this as our base,” he said. “So where are we at now and what do we want to do in the future?”

But he also noted that if the city is forced to make budgetary cuts next year, the Parks department is more vulnerable compared to public safety, for example.

The Sycamore Park shelter opened on May 23, 2011, and has been rented nearly every weekend since, Rathje said.

He said it’s the city’s best shelter and second-largest next to the Jimmy Jones Shelter. The rental fee is currently $25, but he wanted to raise it to $50 due to the amount of time Parks employees spend on setup and cleanup of the shelter.

Board member Robert LaPoint said raising the fee would cut out some who would like to rent the shelter.

Parks charges $50 for six hours or $100 for an entire day at Jimmy Jones and $25 for an entire day at the rest of the shelters.

The board approved a recommendation to the City Council to raise the shelter’s daily rental rate to $35 on a 2-1 vote, with LaPoint as the dissenting vote. The fee hike would take effect Jan. 1.

Wapello County Foundation has donated $10,000 to the city for roll-down side curtains for the Central Park stage. The heavy-duty, white vinyl curtains will also provide shade for performers. The Fahrney Foundation also donated $18,000 to the city to replace the broken tiles at the park with engraved monuments behind the stage.

The monuments will lie on the ground in a concrete bed at a 5-degree angle.