This is about the Portage County Park District, first in what will probably be a series of rants.
Portage County DOES HAVE a park district. CATCH : Over 800 A of the land comprising the district are currently inaccessible because of a lack of funds. The budget has been severely cut, with the 2014 revenues projected to be only $99,500 to manage 1300 A of parkland and 14 miles of hike and bike trails. To paraphrase Barney Dyer who witnessed the famous Ravenna Glassblowers’ Wreck, where two trains got on the same track, heading for each other, with predictably disastrous results, “That’s a helluva way to run a park system!”
Our neighbors to the north in Geauga County have a marvelous system, with programs for all age and mobility levels, seasonal attractions and programs, inviting trails and structures, professional staff. To the west, Summit County co-ordinates with the CVNP (Cuyahoga Valley National Park) to offer its citizens a multitude of outdoor experiences and programs, managed and protected by a professional staff. Further to the west, in Lorain County, my home stomping grounds, there are parks from the Lake (Erie) to the southern flatlands along the Black River, with lodges available for local activities and varieties of programs. People USE these. They hike, they run, they camp, they picnic, they fish, they canoe/paddle around, they learn and enjoy.
Portage County could do the same but it must provide reliable financial support for the system. One full-time (the remarkable director, Chris Craycroft) and two part-time employees cannot do everything that needs to be done…but they’ve already done an amazing amount, working with volunteers and garnering grants from all over the place to keep things going. Even such efforts cannot carry the whole load forever.
What is the load?
1.Towner’s Woods 2. Dix Park 3. Portage Bike and Hike Trail 4. Headwaters Trail 5. Breakneck Creek Preserve 6. Chagrin Headwaters Preserve 7. Walter Preserve 8. Camp Spelman 9. Gray Birch Bog Preserve 10. Seneca Ponds Park 11. Dix Preserve 12. Morgan Preserve 13. Berlin Lake Trail 14. Red Fox boat access—Upper Cuyahoga State Scenic River 15. Frank lin Bog Preserve
Some…most… are open only for guided tours. Some contain biologically important water features and significant vegetation found in not very many places. Some have most of the features—picnic shelters and grills, special events, fishing, cross-country skiing, trails for all seasons, etc.—that encourage participation in outdoor activities. There could be more, but not unless there is a reliable funding source.
Not to put too fine a point on it, our governor and legislature have about sprained their collective arms giving themselves a pat on the back for “balancing the budget” and giving Ohio a “rainy day fund” but they have done this by slashing local government funds(Ask your township trustees, county commissioners, mayors & councilpersons… or school boards, they got stiffed too), so that the state of Ohio is sitting on about $8 billion while all of us out in the fly-over country are looking at constant requests for passage of levies for things that we want and things that we had thought we would get help for from Columbus. Nope.
So…If we could just see our way clear to give up, maybe one, maybe two pizzas over the course of the year, WE COULD DO THIS! Sounds like a deal!
We could even get out and USE this asset as it expands. And maybe we wouldn’t personally expand the way we have been. Right, Wide-Load?
May 6, 2014