Richmond Heights Recreation Commission recommends several improvements, and closure of pool in 2021

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Completion of upgrades at the city’s Kiwanis Lodge, making improvements to Desan Park and Greenwood Farm, and keeping closed in 2021 the swimming pool at Community Park are a few of things the recreation department recommended, through Recreation Director Rick Dula, during Tuesday’s (Feb. 2) online City Council Service and Recreation Committee meeting.

Dula addressed the committee with these recommendations, and more, gleaned from a series of meetings of the city’ Recreation Board in recent months with Dula and assistant recreation director Anthony Gimellia.

“We started this exercise back in October with over 50 potential budget items and personnel moves and equipment suggestions,” Dula said, “and we’ve narrowed it down to a final three recommendations we are presenting tonight.” Dula said that the city has done an admirable job of building up funds since the city’s fiscal crisis of 2013, and that, “2021 is the right time to spend some of our money, the taxpayers’ money, to improve our recreational leisure programs and facilities in Richmond Heights.”

Speaking about the 44-year-old pool, which was closed in 2020 due to COVID-19 and the need for costly repairs, Dula said that the need for those repairs continues.

“We do recommend keeping it closed in 2021 1/4 u2033 he said. “Our wish is to have it remain closed until a final decision can be made about the future status of any type of aquatic facility here in Richmond Heights. We’ve been patching and repairing and opening and closing it. We have the stats to show that the attendance has been very dismal the last three years that we’ve been open — especially compared to other Hillcrest communities. The picture for opening the pool this year is very gloomy.”

The Kiwanis Lodge

Telling the committee of the first of the three commission recommendations, Dula noted that the city-owned lodge at Community Park, 27285 Highland Road, “is turning into one of our showcase facilities” because of work done there over the past couple of years.

“We would like the city to consider to finally finish remodeling the (lodge’s) first floor, which would include a new (audio-visual) system; new flooring in the Kiwanis Hall, the smaller of the two (halls in the lodge); a new HVAC system; new energy efficient windows and new lights in the Kiwanis Hall; four energy efficient windows on the east wall of the Senior Hall; (and) new round tables and chairs in both halls. That would basically finish off the lodge.”

The kitchen was remodeled in 2020 by the city’s service department, and grants have been used to upgrade the basement for a broader range of uses, to upgrade the first floor, and to add an outside ramp for better access to and from the basement.

“It’s getting there,” Dula said of the lodge. “We figure let’s just do it all in 2021. Let’s finish what we have to do and if we can’t get (more) grant money, let’s not wait. Let’s just spend the money we have in our $10-million (city budget) carry-forward and move forward.”

Hiring a part-time staff person

The next recommendation from the commission is to rehire a part-time staff person, at 28-hours per week, to assist with programming, special events, rentals, marketing, deposits, program evaluations, event evaluations, surveys and handling social media work.

The commission suggests not hiring the part-timer until after the pandemic has passed and “life in the recreation department returns to what ever the new normal is going to be.

“Obviously, if we’re not doing activities, we don’t need that (part-time) person onboard yet, but we need to position ourselves in case the pandemic is done sometime in 2021 and we can move forward with more activities.”

Desan Park

Of the third recommendation, concentrating on Desan Park, located off Trebisky Road, Dula said, “We’d like to either remodel, renovate the restrooms/concession stand/pavilion structure, (and) complete the work on the two baseball infields, which is pretty minor. We have applied for a grant for a new playground there, and we’re looking at possibly repurposing the old tennis courts.

“It’s a wonderful space,” he said of the long-closed tennis courts. “It’s kid of growing weeds right now and we’d like to come up with something that we can put there and make it an asset instead of a liability.”

While commission made recommendations in these three areas, it went on to list several other items on its wish list.

At Community Park, it is looking at improving the asphalt trail, something for which the city has already applied for a $150,000 share of 2021 federal Community Development Block Grant money, as distributed by Cuyahoga County. Also discussed were options regarding the pool. Those options include repairing the current pool; adding an aquatics facility, such as a spray park, for use by children and teens, on the site of the current pool; or building a smaller pool, depending on study results. Dula also mentioned working next year with the school district to replace the worn tennis courts with new courts, fencing and lighting. The improved courts could the be used by the schools for physical education.

At city-owned Greenwood Farm, 264 Richmond Road, Dula said the commission would like to build a permanent heated restroom, as the city received a grant and has installed sewers running to the farm property.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Cassandra Nelson asked if tables and grills would be installed at Greenwood Farm, and Service Director Don Kerniskey said the plan for spring was to add both. Meanwhile, Ward 1 Councilwoman Kim Thomas suggested installing a larger sign that let’s people know that Greenwood Farm is a community park, as the current sign makes that statement in comparatively small letters.

Of Greenwood Farm, Dula said, “That’s a wonderful piece of property sitting there screaming to be utilized and (for the city to) put some money into that. It’s just a beautiful property that needs to be tweaked a little bit, put some money into it, and allow people, residents to enjoy the beautiful nature back there.”

Although it did not have to do with recreation, the commission also recommended that Richmond Heights, at $60,000-$70,000 per year, turn on all of its street lights to make the city safer and more welcoming.

The commission consists of residents Charlotte Camp, Angela Jordan, Patricia Thompson, Anna Cifranic and Mary Mehring.

Speaking in response to Dula and the commission’s call for the city to spend money on upgrading its recreational facilities, Councilwoman and Committee Chair Juanita Lewis said, “We’ll do some spending, but we’ve got to be careful.” Council took no action on the recommendations.

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