County Park District to hire its first employee

(Posted Dec. 27, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Early in 2018, the Madison County Park District will hire its first-ever employee.

The part-time operations manager will oversee the district’s two main assets: the Little Darby State Scenic River Preserve in Monroe Township and the paved biking/walking trail that runs through London and stretches between the Clark and Franklin county lines. The new hiree will report to Rob Slane, county administrator.

Funding for the position comes from a new line item in the county budget. The county commissioners have set aside $40,000 for 2018 to cover wages, as well as some miscellaneous expenses related to the trail and preserve.

“It’s Step 1 of making the park district a functional, operating park district. It’s a great first step, in my opinion,” said Wayne Roberts, executive director of the non-profit Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT).

Eighteen years ago, the county formed the park district in order to receive state capital budget money to start the trail project. The county’s three commissioners make up the district’s board, however, FMCPT volunteers handle most of the improvements, maintenance, and fundraising work related to the trail.

For the last couple of years, FMCPT leaders have been asking the commissioners for more help with oversight and operations duties. The group’s membership is aging, Roberts said, and new, young members have been hard to come by.  The group wants to be sure structured, active oversight is in place to ensure the long-term sustainability of the trail and preserve. The new manager position and budget line item are steps in that direction, Roberts said.

Meanwhile, FMCPT is in the midst of a fundraising campaign for an in-town extension of the trail. Members have raised $54,000 of the $78,000 needed. They broke ground on the project this fall and hope to complete it in the spring. The Madison County Engineer’s Office is doing the work.

Related to the extension, FMCPT and county representatives are talking with city officials about trail maintenance responsibilities. Four entities––the county, FMCPT, the city, and business owner Chuck Duvall–own sections of the trail between Spring Valley Road and downtown London. The goal is to devise an ownership and maintenance plan that benefits the trail for the long haul.

Ideas have run from shared maintenance to land sales and transfers. Joe Mosier, London’s safety-services director, asked FMCPT and the county to submit a proposal to the city for analysis.

In other developments, FMCPT is looking into installation of a commercial grade shower at the Prairie Grass trailhead located behind the Madison County Senior Center on West High Street. Two years ago, the group created a primitive camping area at the trailhead for through-bikers looking for overnight accommodations.

Roberts said the senior center board is open to the idea, but wants to see architectural plans first. FMCPT leaders are gathering price quotes, too.

The biking/walking trail is part of the Ohio-To-Erie trail that runs between Cincinnati and Cleveland. To learn more, go to www.fmcpt.com.

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