City looks at new land for possible rec center
Westland Area Commission learned at its Nov. 17 meeting of an alternate location where a regional family center could be built.
Columbus Recreation and Parks representative Maureen Lorenz outlined plans the department is working on to purchase land in far western Franklin County that is much larger than the current property where there has been much talk about building the center.
The city has purchased 31 acres known as the Blauser property along West Broad Street. There are plans to create soccer fields on a portion of that property and work there could begin as early as March.
“That leaves 15 acres for development,” Lorenz told the commission.
The new land she talked about is 263 acres east of Galloway Road and north of Alkire Road. The city has been in negotiations with a developer who, she said, would put up the matching money that would allow the city to apply for a competitive grant from Clean Ohio to help with the purchase. She did not identify the developer.
“The money we would have used for the matching money would buy 50 acres,” she said. “If we get the grant, we could buy the other 213 acres.”
She described this land as having forest and wetlands to preserve, leaving 50 acres for development, which she said could be used for the family community center. Nature trails could be developed through the wooded area.
Clean Ohio has $3.3 million in grants for which several cities have applied. In response to questions about a timeline for obtaining funds, she said she wouldn’t know for a few months since the money has to be awarded by the end of the fiscal year in June 2011.
Several years ago voters within the city approved a bond issue which raised money to purchase land for the Recreation and Parks. The city began talking about building two regional family centers and three locations surfaced.
WAC supports building a center on the Blauser property. Such a center would offer a variety of recreational activities and would include a recreational pool as well as a competitive pool.
WAC also supported having the city working with Prairie Township to help with the operation of the facility.
However, plans stalled when the economy soured and the city began experiencing financial problems. Voters approved an increase in the city income tax which could provide funds for the centers.
“Mayor (Michael) Coleman supports a center,” Lorenz said without elaborating where centers would be built. “There is nothing outside 270.”
She acknowledged that a center of this scale would be similar to ones serving suburbs, and she mentioned the centers at Westerville and Dublin.
Since such a center would be much larger than the current centers the department operates, Lorenz said membership fees would have to be charged.
“The center would be open to everyone, but for the added value items, we’d have to charge a membership fee,” she said.
Lorenz also said that a local parks committee is necessary to help her department determining how such a center would be built.
WAC’s Recreation and Parks Committee chair Jo Ellen Locke has begun rebuilding the Friends of Westland Parks Committee that had been active several years ago. However, WAC leadership in that area will have to find a new leader because Locke announced her resignation at the meeting, effectively immediately, for personal reasons.
“I’ve been happy being a member of WAC since 2000 and serving as Recreation and Parks Committee chair since 2002,” she read from her letter of resignation in a somber voice.
By the time she finished reading her letter, her colleagues were on their feet applauding her for her work, and moments later, after the meeting adjourned, they gathered around her and hugged her.
WAC’s next meeting will be Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at Doctors Hospital.
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