SCPD park board plans program increase, approves electronics for board members

Seneca County Park District’s board approved a $5,000 increase in its salaries account during its meeting Tuesday to accommodate hiring a second part-time naturalist and approved the purchase of electronic devices for use by board members.

The board recently hired Angie Ford as an assistant naturalist to work 700 hours per year as well as Gary McClure as assistant nature preserves manager.

Executive Director Sarah Betts said the additional naturalists will enable the district to “expand our programming possibilities by leaps and bounds” in preparation for next year’s 25th anniversary.

In her report, Betts provided the board with a summary of programs for 2018 and 2019, which were provided by Linda Rose, who works as part-time naturalist and part-time Out & About Preschool director.

In summary, Betts said 6,517 people took part in 363 programs in 2019. Those numbers are a 938-person and a 102-program increase from 5,579 and 261 in 2018.

The most popular month for programs last year was October with 1,471 people taking part in 37 programs. September also had more than 1,000 people attending 42 programs. Thirty-some programs were offered most months and attendance averaged 680 people in warm-season months, dropping off to an average of 270 during January, February, November and December.

Also Tuesday, the board approved the purchase of tablets or laptops for use by board members, and authorized up to $500 to buy a large screen for the wall of the conference room to use for meetings and programs.

Board member Bill McAllister said the electronic devices are the board’s next step in reducing the use of paper.

“All board members do as much as we can electronically,” he said. “We’re trying to get away from the piles of paper we copy every month. Part of what we’re about here is saving natural resources.”

Also in her report, Betts said a project to expand Opportunity Park has been proposed to the State Capital Budget as a cooperative project among the park district, Seneca County Commissioners and the Opportunity Center, where the park is located. If approved, she said the project would take two years to complete.

Betts said the H2Ohio Grant agreement has been signed with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the next step is for ODNR to determine the process for fund distribution.

The park district received a grant for $309,000 to buy Fruth Outdoor Center from Fostoria’s Geary Family YMCA and improve water quality by restoring and improving wooded wetlands. The property is on SR 18 between Fostoria and Bascom. It contains remnant wetlands positioned between to small creeks in a headwaters area of Wolf Creek.

Betts reported the Community Parks Grants Program is underway for this year. Staff members have met with eight community park representatives, and grant applications are due May 1 to receive some of the $90,000 available. The total includes two years of grant funds, plus carryover funding from projects that required changes after the first round.

“Thus far, four entities have submitted final reports for projects that were funded in 2018 through the first round of community park grants,” she said. “Others have completed projects and are wrapping up their final reports for submittal.”

Final reports must be complete before a community is eligible to apply for more funds.

Betts said she hopes the first round of options for the district’s new logo are available for board review in February.

In his report, Nature Preserves Manager Troy Gibson said he’s been working this winter on cosmetic issues at the building at Fruth Outdoor Center before the park re-opens in spring.

He said his assistant was hired to help as needed, and much of his time will be used in the summer months.

Gibson said the cabin at Steyer Nature Preserve again has been vandalized, and many windows now are boarded over. The board discussed removing the cabin or changing it into a shelter with open sides.

Also at Steyer NP, he said several bridges are showing their age and bridge treads are being replaced on a regular basis.

He said a “substantial amount” of shingle damage at the Bowen Nature Preserve residence and garage has been repaired due to high winds. He said there are missing shingles and damaged shingles, and he is getting estimates and roof material options. Also, he said estimates for windows for the residence will be obtained in 2020.

Also at Bowen NP, he said he has contacted people about demolition of the old barn, and items are being cleaned out as the interior of the new barn is organized.

In other business, the board also approved the 2019 list of donations and grants (see accompanying story), and approved the transfer of $10,000 from the General Fund to the Preschool Fund to provide financial support to Out & About Preschool.

Board members met in executive session to discuss property matters.

The next meeting is at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 11 at the board office, 3362 S. TR 151.