Damage to South Central Park continues to occur, and the North Ridgeville Parks and Recreation Department wants the community to take notice. The ongoing vandalism was discussed at the July 27 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.
The city department may air a public service announcement (PSA) on the local public access TV channel, based on an idea submitted by city treasurer Anthony Hatmaker.
“We need to do some sort of PSA to say, ‘These are your parks. If destruction and mayhem keep happening, you’re not going to have a park,'” Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Fougerousse told the commission. “As everyone knows, Parks and Recreation does not have a boatload of money, and, unfortunately, there is only so much we can do.”
There is currently a security camera located on the concession stand pavilion, which is aimed directly at the restroom facility. Another camera is mounted in the gazebo, a structure that has been vandalized before. The department recently met with a security company about the possibility of putting additional cameras by the Splash Pad, the playground and the new Community Cabin restrooms. City officials are also hoping to bring in more lighting to the park in the future.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s happening, and we wish people would take pride in their parks,” Fougerousse said. “But you always have kids who want to destroy things and ruin everybody’s fun. It costs money to make repairs, and if we don’t have the money to do it, everybody loses.”
Other issues discussed at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting included:
Splash Pad restrictions
Fougerousse suggested restricting use of the Splash Pad to residents of North Ridgeville only, starting next spring. Residents have complained to the Parks and Recreation Department after being crowded out of the water feature by busloads of visiting children from other cities.
He discussed the matter with Mayor David Gillock and Safety Service Director Jeff Armbruster and also did some research concerning Splash Pad facilities in Northeast Ohio and to whom they offer use.
“From what I’ve heard, the majority of them do not allow non-residents,” Fougerousse said of other cities’ policies. “The biggest reason is, it’s a facility and taxpayers paid for it.”
Commission member Cathy Ebenschweller questioned enforcement of the rule since the city can’t afford to have someone on hand to check identification. Likewise, Vice Chairman Brett Milner asked about residents who bring non-resident family members to the facility. Fougerousse stressed the major concern is large groups of children from the greater Cleveland area descending upon the Splash Pad.
“I’m going to send letters to some of the YMCAs we’ve seen come down, and we will do periodic checks,” he said.
Signs will also be posted next season to let non-residents know it is a residents-only facility.
“We’re not going to stop everybody, don’t get me wrong,” Fougerousse said. “But we’re going to stop the majority. Ridgeville residents have complained about getting kicked out (of the Splash Pad by non-residents). I’m not saying non-residents can’t use the public park, just the (Splash Pad) facility that taxpayer money paid for. Why should you be bumped out for a Cleveland resident who has pools and has other facilities? I’m not doing anything different than other cities.”
Commission chairman Frank Vacha said the Splash Pad was not intended to be a field trip destination.
“It was never meant for that and was never approved by the commission for that,” he said.
The Splash Pad opens Memorial Day weekend and closes after Labor Day.
Program supervisor terminated
The Parks and Recreation Department terminated the position of program supervisor Ryan Kirst after he had been on the job for less than four months. Fougerousse would not go into detail regarding why Kirst’s employment ended, and the board discussed the personnel issue during an executive session at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out,” Fougerousse said. “We at the department wish nothing but the best for Ryan and his family. We have no ill will towards him.”
Kirst was hired from a candidate pool of approximately 70, who were ultimately pared to five. The department has begun the process of interviewing the next best candidate from those applications.
“Every one of the candidates was very well qualified, including Ryan,” Fougerousse said. “Now, we’re just going back and contacting those individuals.”
The next meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24 in the multi-purpose room.