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Rock Hill Park Dominates Meeting On Survey

Residents concerned about park's condition and possibility new city hall could be built on site

February 06, 2009
The fate of Rock Hill Park – rather than park survey results – took center stage at Tuesday's Rock Hill Board of Aldermen meeting.

Last fall, the board commissioned Leisure Vision, Olathe, Kan., to conduct a survey of residents to gauge their thoughts on the parks. Of 1,000 households receiving the survey, 288 responded.

Following the presentation by consultant Ray Vine, one resident said that Rock Hill Park was overgrown with weeds and was not a good place for children to play.

"Mothers in my neighborhood are no longer comfortable sending their children to that park, " the resident said.

Resident Mary Ann Musial said, "The last couple of times I've been there, it has been unsafe. I've found rebar on the playground.

"Another thing brought up in the survey was walking paths, and the Oakhaven Nature Trail seems to be poorly marked," Musial added. "I would like to use it, but it does not strike me as someplace I wanted to be with young children."

Another resident, Jane Hardy, said she had a problem with the board doing a survey when park grounds are not being maintained.

"You should start making sure the grass is cut before you start the survey," she said.

Mayor Julie Morgan said that the purpose of the meeting was to show the results of the survey.

Hardy turned back to the subject of Rock Hill Park and the possibility of it being the site for a new city hall and fire department.

"This survey really points out the importance of maintaining the park system. If you destroy Rock Hill Park, it will make matters worse," Hardy said.

Mickey Coyle said the reason she moved to County Hills Drive was to have green space in the form of Rock Hill Park and Steger School nearby. She also suggested that the board consult the comprehensive plan before deciding a location for city hall.

Morgan said that the city was planning to review the comprehensive plan in the second half of the year.

"Rock Hill Park is the only park south of Manchester with facilities, and if you decide this is the only place for the city hall and fire department, then what is the plan for new green space for our community," said resident Matt Klaus. "Why develop the park when there are empty buildings on Manchester Road?"

"Taking a public park for the city is a dangerous precedent to set," Musial added.

Following the meeting, Hardy told the Times that she felt the board was not sensitive to the needs of the community.

"They've been on a rampage, tearing down homes for businesses. Now they're starting on the parks. If you're going to take a survey when the park is in disrepair and use the results of that survey as justification to tear down the park, does that make sense to you?" she said.

City Administrator George Liyeos told the Times that the city has some time at its present location within the proposed Miller Weingarten redevelopment area. The current timeline for the developer to acquire all the properties has a December 2009 deadline.

In light of the comments about using the park site for a city hall and fire department, Board Member Sheri McCann motioned that the board place the issue on the agenda for further discussion.

"Given the economy, I don't think there's a remote chance this will happen anytime soon," said Board Member Timothy Redmond. "I'm all for talking about it, but talking about it now – there's a lot that can happen in the next year. "

"If we have to move to another facility before another facility is built, which is likelihood, I think it should fall under the general topic of future location of city hall versus Rock Hill Park," Board Member Philip Scherry said.

"I think it's a great idea to bring it out and talk about it, but there's nothing to say," said Board Member Mary Wofford. "We don't have a clue yet."

The board voted in a 3-3 split with board members Redmond, Wofford and Ed Johnson voting "no" and board members Edward Mahan, Scherry, and McCann voting "yes."

Morgan broke the tie by voting for the McCann's motion.

Survey Results

Among survey findings were that 56 percent of respondents had used at least one city park in the past year, and 76 percent felt the parks needed improvements. Oakhaven Park was the most used at 40 percent, with Stroup Field following at 22 percent.

Of residents visiting the parks, 63 percent rated them as good, with 9 percent as excellent.

Vine said one of the most important things the city could do would be to improve parks equipment and grounds.

The survey, a budgeted item, cost $9,000. Those receiving the survey got an electronic voice message encouraging them to complete the survey. Those not responding in two weeks were telephoned.

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