By Karen Kin
Planning for the new year was the focus of Thursday's Tiffin Park and Recreation Board meeting.
Officers were appointed as the meeting opened. John Bing was named president, Susan Jones vice president and Dave Ralston, who is a new member of the board, was named representative to the planning commission. Bing said the experience as representative will give Ralston, who is new to the area, a "wonderful sense of what's happening on the ground" and help get him in touch with the community.
Volunteers of the year were nominated during the meeting. This year, one individual and one group are to be recognized for their service to the park department. The recipients of the award are to be invited to the February meeting to be recognized for their contributions.
Park Director Steve Dryfuse said in the new year, the department is to focus on the spring and summer program schedules "to get the most out of our staff." Information on upcoming programs is to be sent to schools in March, he said.
The board discussed the swim camp/lessons provided each summer at the city pool. The lessons, said Dryfuse, have always been either before or after the pool's open hours, and have been offered free of charge. The sessions are for children ages 3-5 and 6-11, and the participants are divided by swimming ability. The board discussed conducting the lessons during open pool hours this year to save on lifeguard and staff costs, and possibly charging a fee for lessons. The lessons would take place during characteristically slow times at the pool, and any fee that is charged would be minimal.
The purpose of the swim program, Bing said, it to ensure "every child is able to swim, and get more kids involved in water safety." The board discussed seeking a grant to help cover the cost of the swim program since it is safety-oriented, and considered offering an incentive for the lessons to those who purchase a pool pass.
The board also debated a charge for the park's summer day camps. Two themed camps are offered during the summer months, and about 150 children participate. Previous suggestions included seeking donations from participating families to help cover the costs of the camps. Jones suggested a small fee be charged this year, and a decision on the fee is to be announced at the next board meeting.
Program Director Matt Coleman said the department's Sledding Under the Stars event has not occurred yet this season due to lack of snow, but the department would "be ready to go on a whim" when the opportunity arises. The event allows children to sled under the lights at Hedges-Boyer Park, and hot chocolate is provided for guests.
Coleman said the fourth year of the Junior Olympics, at Seneca County Opportunity Center, is being planned, but no date has been set. The Ice Bowl disk golf tournament also is being organized, and a date is to be announced.
Coleman is planning for the city's adult softball league and is putting together a four-person board to plan and manage the league.
An overview of the sports camps offered by the parks department was presented by Coleman, who stressed the camps cover the fundamentals of various sports, and also focus on building the socialization skills and self-esteem of the participants. Coleman said in addition to the camps already planned by the parks and recreation department, a volleyball camp and a fall lacrosse camp with Tiffin University likely would be offered this year.
The board also heard plans are taking shape for the 9/11 memorial, which is to feature a beam from the World Trade Center site. One potential site for the memorial, said Coleman, is the Firestone location, and he said engineering plans are being prepared and funding for the project is being reviewed. Bing suggested pieces from the Seneca County 1884 courthouse now being razed be incorporated into the design.
Potential changes to the E League baseball were considered by the board. Tryout drafts might be eliminated and replaced by a more random selection of players, and a small registration fee was considered to help with the cost of the program. No final decisions were made. Dryfuse said registration forms for E League are available online on the department's website.
The board brainstormed potential project ideas for the months and years to come.
"This is the year we begin to prioritize and make plans," Bing said.
He suggested a dog park, which was strongly considered last year, be brought back to the table, and park areas along the riverfront be considered. Bing said such development along the riverfront would lead to economic growth and development around park areas, and if park design plans could include the river wall, deterioration issues surrounding the wall would be addressed.
Bing also said that the courthouse site, once cleared, presents an "interesting possibility for us." He suggested a pavilion or platform be placed at the site for use in festivals and music performances, to help strengthen Tiffin's reputation as an education and arts community. The site should be used, he said, for something "really valuable and useful to the community for patriotic purposes."
Tiffin Parks and Recreation Board's next meeting is set for 11:30 a.m. Feb. 9.
The board also heard:
The pillars and statue at Hedges-Boyer Park were cleaned and repaired, and the picnic tables are being sanded and repainted.
The snowplows and broom are ready for the first snowfall of the season.
The fence at Rodger Young Field needs to be replaced due to years of use and extra stress on the fence from the recent floods.
Surface cracks at the Lions Basketball Court were repaired.
Shelter 6 is in need of repair, and more ash trees need to be removed at the park.
Grading and tiling are to continue to be addressed at the park, and expansion of parking will continue.
A window was added to the parks and recreation garage.
A grant for new bleachers is being sought by the parks department.
The VFW recently donated $250 to purchase a new American flag for Hedges-Boyer Park.
The board considered selecting a site to store soil and other useful material from city project sites until they can be put to use by the parks department.