Study: Toledo must improve parks system

Dedicated source of money is needed, City Council told


A $25,000 study conducted by an Indiana-based company and funded with money from the Toledo Athletic Commission Trust Fund recommends better park facilities, better funding, and better emphasis on the importance of parks and recreation programs.

Toledo City Council, which commissioned the study by Pros Consulting LLC, of Indianapolis, got a formal presentation of the findings Thursday during a parks and recreation committee meeting. Councilman Lindsay Webb said the study aimed to take a “good, hard look” at the city parks system and recreation offerings.

For years, the city has slashed funding for parks, but this year it budgeted $100,000 of capital improvement money for them.

The study was meant to advise the city how to spend money generated from a tax levy dedicated for parks and recreation. But voters last November defeated the 1-mill levy request.

The 10-year levy would have generated an estimated $3 million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $30 in annual property tax. Without the tax, the city doesn't have a dedicated source of money to pay for the recommendations in the Pros Consulting study.

Dennis Garvin, commissioner of the city’s Division of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, acknowledged that many of the recommendations were common-sense conclusions he has promoted for years.

“What it does is get another person’s perspective to say it isn't just me saying this stuff,” Mr. Garvin said.

Leon Younger, president of Pros Consulting, said the city’s parks system should be used to attract and retain people.

“They need to fix the infrastructure of the system,” Mr. Younger said. “The infrastructure is really tired, and there are a lot of problems with assets and trying to keep the parks looking and working well.”

Toledo parks have too much broken equipment, he said.

“They need to find dedicated funding sources to help the department,” Mr. Youger added.

The firm said Toledo has six acres of park per 1,000 people as opposed to 12 to 15 per 1,000, which is consider a “best practice in the Midwest.” Toledo also spends $3,800 per maintained acres; the firm said $6,072 is a best practice.

Eighty percent of local residents use the Toledo parks, which is higher than the national average, Mr. Younger said.

Council has before it a proposal from the Bell administration to create a single Toledo Parks, Athletic, and Recreation Commission instead of what exists today — the Toledo Athletic Commission and the Toledo City Parks Commission.

Mr. Younger said the two commissions should be combined.

Ray Vargas and Ethel Parker, who identified themselves to council as members of the athletic commission, argued against disbandment. Mr. Garvin said the commission does not have any active members since all of the members’' terms were expired and not reappointed by Mayor Mike Bell.

“There is no Toledo Athletic Commission,” Mr. Garvin said.

Mr. Vargas said the commission had approved money from the trust fund for boxing, tennis, and basketball programs. Mr. Garvin said the money was not released because they no longer have authority over the funds.

Pros Consulting recommended recreating a single parks department rather than having it under the city’s public service division; demolishing unused and dilapidated pools, courts, and playgrounds, and building three “signature facilities” that would include “a large multi-generational center, regional water park, and one large sports complex to support soccer, baseball, and softball.”

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

or 419-724-6171.