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Planning park system’s future

Clearly, Weirton needs a strategic plan for its parks and other recreation facilities, along with some idea of how they will be funded in the future. Members of the Board of Parks and Recreation have taken an intelligent first step in agreeing to stop maintaining five recreational areas that are not used as much as other facilities.

To their credit, board members want to know how the public feels about a tentative proposal for repairs and improvements to some recreation areas. To that end, a public meeting has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Oct. 3, to discuss the matter.

Like many communities in our area, Weirton is not what it was at one time. In 1952 when the park system’s centerpiece, the Weirton Millsop Community Center, was opened, the city’s population was slightly more than 24,000. By 1960, during the heyday of the old Weirton Steel operation, it had expanded to 28,201.

Just 18,449 people live in Weirton now, according to the Census Bureau.

Parks and recreation officials’ decision to stop maintaining some facilities was realistic, in that light.

They have prepared a “wish list” of proposed expenditures, some of which appear to be vital if facilities such as the Millsop Center are to remain in use. There, Parks Executive Director Coty Shingle has said about $500,000 will be needed to repair part of a wall that is sinking into the ground.

A variety of other items, including expenditure of as much as $1.5 million for major repairs to the Starvaggi Memorial Park swimming pool, also are on the board’s list.

It may be that not everyone is on the same page, however. During a Sept. 12 City Council meeting at which the board’s proposals were aired, Mayor Harold Miller suggested Weirton may need some new recreational facility. “We’ve got to do something different,” he commented, without going into specifics.

If money were no object, Miller’s idea might be attractive. But, again like so many other are communities, finding funds for major projects is difficult in Weirton.

Maintaining existing recreational facilities ought to be the priority. For example, it would be foolish to allow the Millsop Center to deteriorate.

But learning what Weirton residents think about parks and recreation clearly needs to be a first step in developing a strategic plan. So, if you live in the city and are interested in the topic — as you should be — we encourage you to attend the Oct. 3 public meeting.

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