Board brainstorms Seneca parks ideas

Friends of the Seneca County Park District brainstormed ideas for how to improve the county parks during a meeting at Seneca Regional Planning Commission office Wednesday evening.

Led by Kristine Hopkins, manager of planning services for CT Consultants, of Mentor, the meeting was meant to get input for creation of a 20-year comprehensive plan. This is part of a plan under way in the county, Tiffin and Fostoria under the auspices of Seneca Regional Planning Commission.

Friends members reviewed and made recommendations for all 10 county parks. The six nature preserves owned by the park district include Garlo Heritage, Steyer, Forrest, Clinton, Bowen and Zimmerman. The four nature preserves operated in partnership with other entities include Mercy Community with Mercy Hospital – Tiffin, Opportunity Park with Seneca County Opportunity Center, Geary YMCA Fruth Outdoor Center with Geary Family YMCA and Tiffin University Nature Preserve with TU.

Hopkins said the goal of the session was to collect the ideas of people who volunteer in the parks and have a lot of knowledge about them, addressing issues and making recommendations for future goals.

“We want to put together a wish list,” she said. “Get as much on the table as possible.”

After reviewing each park, the overall concerns were the need for restrooms at each park because Garlo is the only one with restrooms for park visitors. Some other parks have been covered by portable toilets during the warm season the past few years.

Another overall concern was the need for storage space for park-owned equipment at most parks.

The third overall concern was the general public being able to find the parks. Because most nature preserves are in rural areas, group members suggested placing more signs along major highways pointing the way toward parks.

Another topic of discussion was a nature center, and where to build it. One thought was to put it near Tiffin, which would be centrally located and within easy access to most of the county’s population. Another thought was to build another one at Garlo, which is the largest park.

Another possibility would be more than one nature center in different parts of the county. Group members agreed there are several good options.

The group discussed ways in which each park is unique — some or more rural and natural and some are more urban — and agreed it’s important that those differences be preserved and enhanced.

In addition, ideas were discussed and recorded for each individual park.

“We’re going to be having more steering committee meetings and pulling their key people,” said Regional Planning Director Charlene Watkins.

Near of the end of this year or in early 2019, she said, public engagement meetings are to be scheduled where people encouraged to give ideas on the entire comprehensive plan.

“At this point, we are in the gathering information and development information stage,” Watkins said. “We are not in the ‘We have a plan’ stage. We are putting together thoughts, ideas and questions from citizens, employees, community leaders and people of interest.”

Watkins encouraged anyone who has not yet filled out the survey on the comprehensive plan to do so at the Regional Planning website, Paper surveys also are available at the Regional Planning offices downtown, 71 S. Washington St. #1104.

So far, she said 839 surveys have been completed, and the goal is 1,600 by the end of the year.

Most of the input so far has been from the Tiffin area, she said, and people in Fostoria, villages and rural areas are asked to contribute their thoughts.