Council approves opening Riverside Park road, pool, bathrooms
The votes prompted rounds of applause and a standing ovation from dozens of park supporters who attended and spoke at the meeting.
Council member George Brunner said after the vote that he’s happy to see the park starting to return to its original splendor.
“(But) why did we ever let the buildings and the grounds get into the shape that they’re in that we have to spend significant dollars—make a significant investment—to restore those buildings?” he said.
The city has to quit pinching pennies on maintaining facilities that taxpayers expect, he said.
“We shouldn’t have to face these significant fund expenditures to restore,” he said. “The city is looking at the same dilemma with the Tallman House, and it really scares me that we have to continually talk about spending significant funds to restore.”
Friends of Riverside Park have been pushing to reopen both the pool and Parkhill Drive for more than two years to help revitalize one of the city’s most beautiful parks.
Rowdy behavior led the city to close the road in 1996, and the pool was closed in 2002 to save money.
The council voted to open Parkhill Drive as a one-way street from the north to the south.
It will cost less than $50,000 to open the wading pool, City Manager Steve Sheiffer said. When the pool opens, however, depends on the extent of repairs needed, and two more “routine” council votes are needed to reallocate money for maintenance expenses, he said.
A staff member will need to be present at the pool, but not a lifeguard, Sheiffer said.
There’s no guarantee the city will open the bathrooms this year, Sheiffer said, but it could happen in two stages. The first would be to get the fixtures working and open it, then work with the friends group on other improvements such as restoring windows and fixing the concrete floor, he said.
Communication between the city and the friends group needs to improve, Sheiffer said, and he invited park supporters to a picnic with him and city staff.
About 50 people packed the council chambers for the park discussion. Most supported the council’s actions, and only two people spoke against opening the upper road.
Some golfers worry about the safety and aesthetics of more traffic because the road comes close to a tee and green. Vandalism cost the city a lot of money when the road was open, Shirley Dyrud said.
Golfer Mary Conway said she opposed the road opening because of vandalism and the safety issues of golf balls hitting passing vehicles.
The friends group has pledged $1,500 for a barrier between the golf course and the road.
Eight people spoke in favor of having greater access to the park. Many of them, including Tim Rutter, said police would be able to address vandalism concerns.
“We as Americans shouldn’t live in fear of vandalism that could happen,” Rutter said.
If that were the case, he said, Rotary Gardens wouldn’t be open today.