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Decisions ahead for recreational future

I’ve written previously about some of the discussions currently being held by members of the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation in planning for the future of the city’s parks and playgrounds.

Earlier this year, the board decided to either shut down or no longer maintain five smaller recreation sites in the city, citing a lack of use by residents as the reason. There also has been discussion about some of the capital improvements being eyed for the parks system, in an effort to keep them operational and available.

The Park Board previously gave a presentation to members of Weirton Council as to these proposals, which included various “must-do” projects and some “wish list” items.

This past Thursday, another presentation with mostly the same information, was made available to the public. Only 14 residents were in the audience.

Councilwoman Flora Perrone, who represents the city’s fifth ward (Marland Heights) was the lone member of council to attend. There were no other public officials there, save the members of the Park Board and some park staff.

While I realize serving in public office includes numerous responsibilities, and one is not able to be everywhere, I also will note the lack of attendance from the city’s highest decision makers was noticed by the sparce crowd.

I also understand people have busy schedules, and can’t always make time to attend public meetings and community presentations. In addition, as one member in the group pointed out, not everyone reads this newspaper to have heard about the meeting.

It’s still a shame to have seen so few there, as this meeting could very well end up being an important event in the history of Weirton’s parks.

There are some major projects which are turning into necessities, including the repair of an area of the south wall of the Millsop Community Center, where people may have noticed some sinking and cracking. Officials say there currently is no danger to the public, but the issue needs to be addressed before it gets worse, and estimates for the project are somewhere around $500,000 at this time. That cost will only go up as time passes.

At Starvaggi Memorial Park, the pool vessel in years beyond what should have been its usable life, officials noted, and is in need of replacement. The price tag on that? Around $1.5 million. There also is a long-time need to pave and line the parking lot, something which became even more needed after the recent utility project at the park.

The big-ticket items at Marland Heights Park would include repurposing the pool structure. While officials say no specific plan has been approved, they did say this could include at least a partial demolition as the building is deteriorating.

The Edwin J. Bowman Field is in need of a new scoreboard and an updated playing surface, they say, and the Panhandle Trail could use $77,000 for commercial grade mowing equipment and staffing to assist with the cost of upkeep. Currently, a group of volunteers working on behalf of the park system have been mowing the grass along the trail and taking care of other maintenance issues.

Keep in mind, that’s just talking about the projects officials say are necessary, and you’re already talking well over $2 million.

There have been various comments about how to raise that money, including some discussion of a levy although officials have recognized levies have not been passing easily in our area in recent years.

Much has to be decided for the future of Weirton’s parks, and I would encourage all parties — the Park Board, Weirton Council and the public — to keep open lines of communication throughout the process.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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