After months of seeking public input and evaluating Canal Winchester's 225 acres of public parkland, the city has a draft of a plan to guide the future of its parks system over the next decade, including development, maintenance and funding priorities.

OHM Advisors, a Columbus firm that provides architecture, engineering and planning services, presented its study and recommendations during a public meeting Feb. 1 at the Francis Steube Community Center.

Residents were encouraged to provide additional comments about the draft plan created by OHM, which was paid $36,000 for its work. Once adopted, the city will use the plan to prioritize park maintenance and improvements each year.

"We've kind of ranked each park with short-term, mid-term and long-term thinking," said Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire, who led the volunteer parks steering committee.

"Some projects we're programming now into our capital improvement plans," he said. "For this year, we've budgeted right around $100,000 for parks improvements."

This year's projects could include new benches and trash receptacles and a shelter house in Westchester Park, one of the city's 10 public parks, Haire said. Other properties in the city's parks system include the community center, the municipal swimming pool, Hanners Park, Stradley Park, Guiler Park, Howe Pond, Kelley Preserve, Pfeifer Park, Walnut Creek Park and Busey Road Park, plus numerous bike paths and trails.

One thing the study revealed is that few residents are aware of Howe Pond, Pfeifer Park or Busey Road Park.

Key recommendations in the draft plan are for a multipurpose complex; continuity among park furnishings and signage; more dog parks; a splash pad; destination activities, such as rock climbing; extending and connecting existing bike paths and trails; and more shaded areas and shelters.

"We just don't have that in the city where you can have a family reunion and have 50 or 60 people come and spend an afternoon under a shelter if the weather is inclement or hot," said Jim Bohnlein, a member of the volunteer steering committee. "We're really lacking on that, and hopefully, we'll get some shelter houses in the city that we can use."

The PowerPoint presentation of recommendations for each park can be viewed at ThisWeekNEWS.com.

In creating the plan, OHM gathered comments and feedback from residents, city staff members and the steering committee.

More than 1,000 park-users and residents have taken part in the process, which included a survey, according to information from OHM. The city's goal has been to understand how residents currently use parks and how they would like to use them in the future.

Of the 848 respondents to an online survey, 78 percent said they use the city's park systems. Canal Winchester's population is nearly 8,000 residents.

The top request was for a multipurpose park, which the city hopes to provide.

Last year, the city purchased nearly 90 acres along Lithopolis-Winchester Road from Kathleen McGill for more than $775,000 to develop into a multipurpose park with recreational fields for baseball, softball, soccer and football, playgrounds, and basketball, tennis and pickleball courts. It also received a $500,000 donation from the Wood Family Foundation to assist in developing parks.

Haire estimates building a multipurpose park could cost upwards of $6 million.

Residents Bryan and Aubrey Campbell, who attended the Feb. 1 meeting, live adjacent to the proposed McGill Park and are already concerned about the increased traffic and noise it might bring.

"We bought in this area because it was green and now they're trying to pave it and turn it into a park," Bryan Campbell said. "It would be a huge difference for us."

The Campbells are in the process of building another home on their property but said they might discontinue those plans.

Haire said the plans for McGill Park would be scrutinized like any other development project in the city.

"We plan for the larger community, and what we've heard from over a thousand people is that there's a desire in the community to have athletic fields and multipurpose parks," he said. "That's what we wanted to accomplish with McGill Park."

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