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Published: Friday, 4/9/2004

Public use for Rec Center

LIMITED vision seems to afflict county commissioners as they strain to decide the fate of the Lucas County Recreation Center and the old Mud Hens' stadium.

This is a valuable tract of land with multiple possible public uses. Those who would turn it over to developers for housing, and County Commission President Harry Barlos seems dangerously close to that, need to consider other options.

The property should be put to choice public use, if not by the county alone, then perhaps through some form of public-private partnership, as Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak proposes.

If, for example, a year-round water park were envisioned, like the one in Sandusky, and if the notion hasn't yet been sold to Marina District developers - are they still around?- money generated from its private operation could be used to pay for the amenities the site has provided to baseball clubs, hobbyists, and county fair visitors over the years.

That's just one idea. Surely others are out there for the dreaming. It is not the average citizen's job to find them, talk them up, and work out the financing, as Commissioner Maggie Thurber seems to suggest. That effort belongs to the elected officials who should be competent in the area of public development and present to the public an attractive public project.

They should be driven by their own version of Toledo Mayor Jack Ford's vision in creating a city skating park, a place that could be a Roller Blade destination for Toledo, the county, and the region. Whatever goes on the property must attract people from many places.

This is not turf to be sold off to tract developers or some other temporarily rewarding but unwise use. Even though the Mud Hens belong downtown, the City of Maumee lost something significant when the team moved to Fifth Third Field. An enduring public use should continue at the Rec Center.

It is depressing to see so little enthusiasm for that notion in Lucas County officials' approach.

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