Engineering a park district solution

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(Posted March 28, 2018)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Madison County leaders have struck on a new solution for future oversight of the Madison County Park District.

The idea, said Robert Slane, county administrator, is to contract with the Madison County Engineer’s Office for ongoing maintenance and development of the district’s assets.

Among those assets are the multi-purpose trail that runs through London and the Little Darby Scenic Preserve located on Lafayette Plain City Road.

In December, the county commissioners, who make up the park board, set aside $40,000 in the 2018 county budget for a part-time park district operations manager. They did so at the urging of the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT), a non-profit volunteer organization instrumental in the trail’s upkeep and improvement. Due to their aging membership, FMCPT pushed the park board to take a more active role in the park district’s oversight.

Initially, the park board sought applicants for the part-time manager position. When none fit the bill, Slane began pursuing the idea of shared services with other governmental entities. FMCPT members and Julia Cumming, a consultant to the park board from the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), stressed the need for a point person who could handle both day-to-day tasks and vision for future projects.

“I am very passionate about this park district and don’t want to see it shrink and disappear,” Cumming said.

Wayne Roberts, FMCPT executive director, said the new point person should be willing to forge relationships with other parks and recreation departments in the county for shared services and project collaboration.

Slane said the County Engineer’s Office plans to designate an employee to cover all of the bases, with help from SWCD on the education and outreach components that have long been part of the park district offerings.

Jerry Miller, an FMCPT member who has donated countless hours of manpower to the trail’s upkeep, likes the proposal.

“I think it would be great to work with the Engineer’s Office,” he said.

“The equipment is there. The willpower is there,” said Commissioner David Dhume. About Bryan Dhume, the county engineer, he added, “He’s willing to step in to help.”

Slane said the next step will be to finalize the contract agreement and run it by the county prosecutor’s office.

Trail extension ribbon cutting

The Madison County Park District plans to hold a ribbon-cutting at 1 p.m. April 7 to celebrate an extension of the Ohio to Erie Trail in downtown London.

The extension runs between Maple and Walnut streets. The long-term goal is to run the extension to Midway Street, eliminating a 1.13-mile gap in the trail in Madison County.

The ribbon-cutting will take place near the trail extension, off of Maple Street, near Center Street. Look for the tents. Parking is available on the street and in the trail parking lot along Center Street. The rain date is April 21.

Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails, a non-profit that helps to maintain and improve the trail, is raising money to cover the cost of the extension. Donations can be made: by check to “FMCPT Trail Gap,” P.O. Box 308, London, OH 43140; through PayPal at www.fmcpt.com, or via the organization’s gofundme account.

The April 7 ribbon-cutting coincides with the 6th Annual Opening Day for Trails as promoted by the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy.

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