Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – Local residents received three promises from Mike Logan, city councilman, at a recent meeting of the Long Range Strategic Planning Committee – the city pool will not reopen at Ted Lewis Park; he will work beyond his final council term to find funding and a suitable location for a possible new pool; and the skateboard park and basketball courts at the downtown park will stay where they are until a new home for them can be found.
The news somewhat appeased the group of residents at the Sept. 9 meeting who came prepared to defend the more teen-friendly activities in the city. But even with the promise that skateboarding and basketball would not be completely removed from public property, many questioned why it was necessary to move them from Ted Lewis Park at all.
The discussion was the result of a master plan developed through a survey conducted by the city as well as discussions and meetings over the past several months with the goal of revitalizing the downtown park.
The plan would close the pool and remove the tennis courts, basketball courts and skateboarding area in favor of a new splash pad; a new children’s playground; a tree-lined promenade with improved main entry; a band shell and amphitheater with a performance green; new paths to provide pedestrian circulation throughout the park; and a relocated restroom structure.
In addition, improvements would be made to existing features at Ted Lewis Park, including new bleachers at the existing ball diamonds and interior fields for overflow parking or alternate sports use; the existing shelter converted to a three-season shelter; possible removal of the levee to open up the creek to the park; and improved pathways and gardens for the Vietnam War memorial monument.
Logan reiterated at the Sept. 9 meeting that the $2 million plan was a long-range goal for the park that would require additional planning and funding, and he would not expect any major changes for at least the next several years.
The only immediate change would be the closing of the city pool, which saw its final season this year at Ted Lewis Park.
“The pool as it stands today is not functional,” Logan said. “Problem number one is the park is in a flood zone, so it floods every once in a while. The water table beneath it is extremely high, and it’s always had a leakage problem. The big pool was gone about two years ago, the pumps are old and the buildings are really old.”
Logan said several years ago the city raised about $16,000 in donations, which was enough to cover insurance, chemicals and some utilities for the pool with the city supplying the water.
“That money is gone now,” he said. “We spent it. The pool is going to close.”
Logan said he believes Circleville should have a public swimming pool, but such a project would not be a cheap undertaking. A small pool would cost about $660,000 to build, and a large pool comparable to the one in Groveport would cost about $1.7 million.
“It will take a lot of time and a lot of money,” he said. “We’ll have to raise the money.”
Residents at the meeting said they understood the issues with the pool, but they were more concerned about keeping basketball and skateboarding at the park.
A common theme for the discussion was the lack of recreational outlets for older kids in the city with the loss of the skating rink, movie theater and bowling alleys, as well as concerns about drug issues and other undesirable elements in the park that required more police presence there.
Many said they believe the projected $2 million for the Ted Lewis Park project could be better spent improving what is already there and making the park more inclusive for everyone.
Representatives of the skating community reminded council members in attendance that they built the ramps at the skate park themselves with money raised with little help from the city, and they were prepared to work even harder to maintain and improve the skate park at Ted Lewis Park.
It was a fact reiterated by Anne Canan, former city council member and long-time advocate for the skate park, who reported the group currently has more than $5,000 in a fund and is prepared to raise more money for the project if council would allocate an area in the park for skateboarders and BMX bikers.
Some of those who spoke to the committee said they felt council members were dismissive of their concerns and ideas, but Logan said that was not the case.
“I thought there were some really good points brought up by people,” Logan said. “It was not a wasted evening. It was a good evening, and 99.9 percent of the comments made, I think, made a lot of sense.”
There is currently no schedule for when the master plan might be brought back before full council or when such a project might be implemented.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal