Council to get recommendations by year's end for Upper Arlington's Northam Park

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
Northam Park

Recommendations for possible changes to Northam Park's sports facilities, amenities and drainage system are expected to be brought to Upper Arlington City Council by year's end.

In January, city officials launched the most recent study of Northam Park, which is being aided by an $81,500 contract for consultant services with MSA Sport, a division of Cincinnati-based MSA Design.

According to city officials, the study is designed to find recommendations for the "appropriate renovation" of the Northam Park tennis complex, consider renovations to the tennis building and the possible relocation of the building's entrance to the south side of the courts, according to city parks and recreation director Debbie McLaughlin.

It also will look at the possible addition of a shelter near the tennis building with year-round restrooms for park users, the development of a plan to address how to "best maximize" existing sports facilities and the development and implementation of a drainage plan for the park's athletic fields, McLaughlin said.

The current study is a follow-up to the city's 2018 Parks & Recreation Comprehensive Plan, which made several recommendations for amenities at Northam Park.

"This study is a first step in implementing these recommendations," McLaughlin said. "It will assist the department in developing priorities for improvements to Northam Park, as well as phasing and budget recommendations that can be incorporated into the city's 10-year capital-improvements program.

"We are currently working with MSA Sport to develop a revised project schedule based on public input received at the community meeting and online survey," McLaughlin said. "However, our goal is to present recommendations and a vision package to City Council by the end of the year.

"MSA Sport is evaluating the park to develop sound engineering recommendations that will improve the functionality and sustainability of the infrastructure in Northam Park."

McLaughlin said staff recommendations will result from a combination of public input received throughout the design study, including feedback from primary user groups -- youth sports, community events, tennis members and park neighbors -- and findings from the consultant team.

The city has gathered public feedback through a series of focus group meetings with members of the community who frequently use existing park facilities, including representatives of field sports, Northam tennis, community event planners and park neighbors.

In late July and early August, residents were invited to participate in a videoconference community meeting in which MSA shared its conceptual design options and sought feedback on them from people attending the meeting.

Those events were followed by an online survey completed by 462 residents. Results are available at tinyurl.com/y358n3u8.

The survey gathered information about preferred layouts for a park service complex and layouts for the athletic fields and tennis courts.

It found that most respondents (46%) prefer a park service complex with covered patios on its north and south ends instead of a building with covered patios on its east and west sides (36.5%) or building pods with connecting overhead canopies (17.5%).

It also found that 76.34% of respondents favor adding an open-air shelter near the park's football fields, and that most (58.91%) wanted an eastern-justified layout for tennis courts versus a western-justified layout (41.95%).

A recurring theme from comments provided for the survey is that residents don't want significant additions of buildings to the park that would affect existing green space.

Names weren't provided with the comments, but they included:

"I appreciate your upgrading tennis courts," one respondent said, "Please don't add more buildings to our lovely green, treed park."

Another stated, "No brick and concrete sport plaza. Already have entry plaza on Tremont Rd, Golden Bear Plaza, and Petro Plaza. Need central green space and trees to keep the park a park."

McLaughlin said based on feedback from the public, city staff and MSA, recommendations that will be forwarded to City Council might include ways to regrade the tennis complex and surrounding park space to improve stormwater drainage and the possible installation of underdrains or irrigation systems.

"Depending on when the design study is wrapped up and when the department can proceed with detailed design, the first phase of improvements could occur as soon as 2021," she said. "The intent is to implement any recommended improvements in a phased approach over multiple years.

"A key part of this study is to develop cost estimates that can be used for budgeting any potential future improvements."

McLaughlin added that given the "well-established nature of Northam Park, our objective is not to redesign or reprogram the park."

"Rather, the intent is to study and develop a long-term plan for the improvement and renovation of existing athletic and civic facilities already contained within the park," she said. "As one of the city's most popular parks, our hope is that this study will provide a road map for the future of Northam Park that will help guide decision-making and ensure it continues to serve as a treasured community hub for many years to come."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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