STOW — City officials said that while roads and other needs have carried a higher priority than parks in past years, $429,100 was spent last year in capital improvements in several parks and they hope to continue to improve more parks in coming years.

Residents have voiced their concern over the condition of the existing parks in the city, especially with the proposal of a new playground at the City Center. Although that new park is to be funded with donations, the city budgets the yearly maintenance of parks at $600,000 and additional funds for capital improvements, said Nicholas Wren, director of public service.

The parks have been “ignored” the last 10 years, but the mayor has now made the parks a priority, and $500,000 is estimated for capital improvements in 2020, Wren said. The city will work on what is broken and fix it. In addition, the staff is working on a comprehensive plan for the parks to address maintenance and capital needs. 

The 2020 budget will be reviewed and needs to be approved by the end of March by City Council, said Mayor John Pribonic.

“We want to spread the wealth around and make improvements everywhere,” Pribonic said. “A budget has to be balanced and address different things in a city and not one specific thing.”

The parks operating budget, which was $600,000 last year, includes personnel, cutting grass, trimming trees, setting up lodges, dragging ballfields, cleaning bathrooms and minor repairs to equipment, Wren said. Capital funds vary from year to year with the projects to be completed.

Silver Springs is one of the largest and most used parks in the city and $353,500 of the $429,100 budgeted in 2019 went to its improvements, which included Bow Wow parking ($75,600); parking lot resurfacing throughout Silver Springs ($111,000); ball field road and parking resurfacing ($108,000); trail install and paving ($34,400); and infield repair ($18,800).

“Silver Springs is our biggest park so it gets the bulk of our attention,” Wren said. “We want to encourage the use of Silver Springs. The parking lot was used all the time, and we invested in what people are using.”

Other improvements were at Oregon Trails with infield repair ($15,000) and dugout benches ($4,300) for a total of $19,300. The Kids Station had $24,100 worth of improvements that included $6,900 for playground equipment and $17,200 for concrete foundation and solar shade. The remaining funds of $32,200 went toward miscellaneous playgrounds for engineered wood carpet ($6,300) and playground equipment ($28,600).

The big challenge for the parks are addressing restrooms which are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, Wren said. The city would have to start over again with the restroom buildings or use a restroom kit.

Adell Durbin Park, which is surrounded by privately owned land, has a special problem because it is often used as a trash dump which the city has to clean out, Pribonic said. 

“Once we get caught up on the parks, we don’t want it to slip,” Pribonic said. 

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com