Budget backlash

Faced with tight budgets for two more years, the Wapakoneta City Recreation director says he and his staff will continue to do the best they can to maintain the parks, but area residents should not look for any major improvements.

“I certainly think we had a great summer with a great soccer and baseball seasons and all the things that people come to the park for are still there and in great condition,” Recreation Director Jack Hayzlett said, noting the 1.1-mile walking path was repaved last summer. “The shelters are popular and are reserved every weekend and four and five times a week. I have to believe everyone is enjoying the park and they are great facilities.

“Our budget does not allow us to add any new equipment or new amenities, but we are, at this point in time, maintaining what we have the best we can,” he said after Monday’s Wapakoneta City Recreation Board meeting.

The Wapakoneta recreation levy generates approximately $100,000, with approximately $50,000 devoted to staff, maintenance and upkeep and another $20,000 for administration. With the purchase of the Centennial Elementary School property and ground and buildings at Harmon Park, the city is devoting approximately $20,000 each year for three years thus leaving $10,000 for emergencies — limiting Hayzlett’s and the Wapakoneta City Recreation Board’s ability to upgrade the parks.

Hayzlett explained most of the park activity is still centered around Veterans Memorial Park, but his crews are responsible for Heritage Park, Belcher Park and Harmon Park and the newly added Breakfast Optimist Park, located at the site of the former Centennial Elementary School.

“Breakfast Optimist Park is looking better and better and we have a drawing now of what they want to do with the playground and the shelters,” Hayzlett said. “I am still waiting for the seeding to be done in the barren area and we have not gotten it done yet this fall, but I am hoping it can be done before the weather changes.

“The parking lot is completed and we are trying to find ways to develop that park with not a lot of money in the budget right now,” he said. “I am sure the Wapak Soccer Club will be using the field that is grassed right now.”

He explained Breakfast Optimist Park will relieve the fields at Veterans Memorial Park in regard to practice, but the games will still be played at Veterans Memorial Park where the Wapak Soccer Club has a concession stand.

Hayzlett voiced his displeasure with the closing of gates at Veterans Memorial Park and the possible move of the skateboard equipment to a Harmon Park basketball court from Veterans Memorial Park.

The Wapakoneta City Council Parks and Recreation Committee advised city administrators to close the gates and study the traffic and parking flow for soccer games and to study moving the skateboard park equipment to Harmon Park.

“I think as a community we have put a large amount of money into developing Veterans Memorial Park and I hate to see us close gates because of some complaints whether they are regarding parking or the skate park — I would rather us fix the real issues,” Hayzlett said. “If it is parking then let’s fix the parking, and if vandalism is an issue then let’s put more resources on combating vandalism.

“I think we have just spent way too much money on that park to be closing gates and limiting people’s access into the facility,” he said. “I think what I have been told by councilors is they will evaluate the parking issue with the gates closed.”

The recreation director voiced his concerns with closing the two gates because the Pine Street entrance and the Wagner Street entrance are driveways only into the park and they do not have sidewalks, while the Wentz and Rauthland gated entrances have sidewalks leading up to them. Hayzlett has heard concerns about closing the gates from residents along South Wentz Street.

He also said he felt the members of the Wapakoneta City Recreation Board should have been advised of the changes and invited to the committee meeting. He understands the Wapakoneta City Recreation Board is responsible only for overseeing the budget and spending money from the recreation levy and the Wapakoneta City Council and its Parks and Recreation Board are responsible for the park grounds, but he would like to see more communication and cooperation between the board and the committee.