Park plans proceed: Groups meet with city admins regarding park ground

With the former Centennial Elementary School property now under city control, initial discussions started Wednesday regarding the layout and improvements to the land as the ground enters the Wapakoneta parks system.

Wapakoneta 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier met with city administrators and representatives of the Wapakoneta Breakfast Optimists club and the Wapak Soccer Club, two sponsors who contributed money to move forward with the purchase of the ground. The city paid $90,000 for the land, with the soccer club pledging $40,000 and the Optimists pledging $20,000 toward the deal.

“I wanted plans to be started and to be developed because I don’t want us to drag our feet too long on this project because we have the property and we paid for it,” Neumeier said after Wednesday’s Parks and Recreation Committee meeting. “My main concern is the money is starting to flow and we know which part will be devoted for the Optimists playground area and where the soccer fields are going to be.”

Neumeier said he believes some soccer will be played on a portion of the ground this year, especially for practice time. He hopes some of the existing playground equipment owned by the city is installed by the end of the year.

“It will take some work to get the rest of the property ready for play especially where the footprint of the school was and where the back parking lot was,” Neumeier said. “To get the park really where we want it, I think it will take a couple of years before it is fully functional.”

With nearly an acre devoted to parking, Neumeier, Mayor Rodney Metz and Safety-Service Director Bill Rains still have concerns regarding the size of the parking lot. Approximately four-fifths of an acre is devoted to parking along the west side of Water Street where a teacher’s parking lot existed in the past.

They also intend to discuss limiting parking along South Pine Street to alleviate congestion during the spring and fall seasons.

“It might come to the point where we have to eliminate parking within that stretch of South Pine Street and have people park in the parking lot along Water Street,” Neumeier said.

He voiced some concerns that the parking lot may not be large enough to handle the number of people who will eventually visit the park.

To help with a visualization and layout of the park, Rains said he would have Engineering Department personnel set small flags for the parking lot and for a one-half acre lot for the playground and 1 acre  lot for the playground. These will be reflected with new engineering drawings of the land.

Wapakoneta Breakfast Optimists, represented by Matthew Eley and Ryan Place, told city administrators they would like an area near the entrance of the park (Water Street entrance) where large trees already exist. This would provide shade and is less usable land for the soccer fields.

They intend to install a playground area. Metz and Rains offered playground equipment from Harmon Park and Centennial Elementary School which is in storage and which could be reassembled.

Eley and Place informed city administrators they also have a “big idea” they are working on, such as a shelter house or other building. Wapakoneta Recreation Director Jack Hayzlett advised setting aside an acre with the the land split between the playground area and the shelter house building.

Steve Lause, representing the Wapak Soccer Club, said they have looked at layouts for several soccer fields on the remaining ground. He and 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee, who served as Wapakoneta Redskins varsity soccer coach, said they would like flexibility in the layout so they can ensure the fields do not get worn in the same area.

The acreage would provide soccer fields for teen teams and youth teams.

The two groups also discussed a possible name for the park. They revealed they would like the park be named Wapak Breakfast Optimist Soccer Park.

Neumeier scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. April 26 after the various parties visit the ground with the flags in place to determine if the layout works for all interested parties.