Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Hold OK'd on sale of Sylvania 'park' land

Sylvania City Council has agreed to a moratorium on the sale of city property that is considered park land - while officials draw up a definition of what is a park.

Meanwhile, residents have learned that Highland Meadows Golf Club no longer has an immediate interest in an adjacent park for a chipping green, but there remains some possible future interest.

Bud Fisher, a Sylvania resident who has campaigned to prevent the sale of David E. Richards Park to Highland Meadows, last week asked council to vote yes or no whether the city would preserve Richards Park as a park, but council declined to take action because of questions and concerns over city park property.

Park discussions were prompted by residents' requests for the city to formally designate the David E. Richards Park as a city park.

Residents hoped an official designation would stop Highland Meadows from buying the land.

In a Sept. 15 letter to Mayor Craig Stough, Highland Meadows confirmed that the golf club is still interested in the land, but the letter said an alternative chipping area design has been recommended as part of the club's master plan.

"This relieved the immediate need to determine if Highland Meadows could in fact obtain the city-owned land. Highland Meadows does desire to keep the option of land acquisition open in consideration of future master plan opportunities," J. Michael Searle, general manager for the golf club, stated in the letter.

Residents have collected more than 240 signatures on petitions to show opposition to the sale of the land, and Mr. Fisher said residents would continue efforts to gain public support for preservation of it as a park for public use.

City officials haven't found any official designation of the David E. Richards Park as a park.

However, the 14.5-acre property, located along Ten Mile Creek, is listed with the city as a passive park with naturalistic woodlands.

The city's inventory list shows that Sylvania has 252 acres in park land.

But much of that property is owned and operated by other entities, including the Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District's 80-acre Pacesetter Park and the Olander Park System's 60-acre Olander Park.

Councilman Mark Bula, chairman of council's building and grounds committee, said Sylvania lacks a legal definition for a city park. He wants to find out what effect it would have on the city if it formally designated parks as parks, such as legal issues or issues related to handicapped accessibility requirements.

James Moan, city law director, said he's been unable to uncover any paperwork showing that the city has formally designated land as parks.

City-owned land has been operated in a parklike function, he said, but no formal action has occurred to designate the land as parks.

Councilman John Borell, Jr., said if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck - or a park, and that it would be unfair now to say that a park is no longer a park.

During council's committee meeting last week, Gary Madrzykowski, director of the Olander Park System, said the system would be interested in managing some of the city's larger parks, including Harroun and Richards parks.

He described Richards Park as one of the most beautiful parks owned by the city and said he would like to see Harroun Park restored to its natural splendor. Centennial Park could serve as a bike-trail connector.

Under a preliminary management proposal for city park land drawn up by Mr. Madrzykowski, Sylvania's 26-acre Harroun park, the David E. Richards Park, and other larger parks would be managed by the Olander Park System. Putting the city's parks under the levy-supported park system could secure the tax base and provide financial stability for the properties, officials have said.

Barbara Sears, council president, said that a starting point in discussions about park property would be for council to define a park, perhaps with Mr. Madrzykowski's help.

The Olander system and city park employees could work together as one unit, said Mr. Madrzykowski, who said there is plenty of work for everybody.

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