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East side park proposal stirs residents again

SOLON– It would be nice to have a plan for that green space.
And residents of the neighboring Fox Ridge subdivision would like to be a part of it.
Before things get built.
In a continuation of a discussion that started in 2008 and stalled out somewhere in between, residents of Fox Ridge approached members of the Solon City Council Aug. 1 to voice their concerns about the development of city-owned property smack-dab in the middle of their subdivision.
The wetland green space, and some of its surrounding area, was dedicated to the city by Fox Ridge developer Clair Mekota when the 116-acre development was created in 2001. Mekota constructed a concrete trail around the area, and the city has since eyed a portion of it as a potential park space for residents living east of Highway 1.
Recently, the city inherited a small piece of playground equipment from the Solon Community School District, and at a July 18 meeting, the members of the city council approved a Parks and Recreation Commission recommendation to place it in Fox Ridge, adjacent to Windflower Lane.
That decision brought residents of the Fox Ridge to the Aug. 1 council meeting, once again asking for input and some clarification of the vision for the park space.
Dan Coons, a member of the Solon school board and a Fox Ridge resident, told council members he was upset the city had not consulted residents about the decision.
When a large-scale park plan was rejected in 2008 after citizen outcry, it was hoped the residents would be included in the decision-making process.
“Now it’s like we’re responding on the back half of something that would have been much easier to respond on the front half,” Coons said.
Many who purchased lots and built homes in Fox Ridge were under the impression it would be maintained as green space, he said. “If I’d have known there was going to be a park behind it, I never would have bought in town.”
Coons asked the city to delay the installation of the playground piece until the parks and recreation commission can consult with adjacent property owners and develop a long-term vision for the site.
“It would be nice to have a plan so we know, all right, over the next 10 years this is what, when we have money, this is what we’re going to plan out. And so we know what’s going on,” Coons stated. “We’d like a voice in that as that goes forward.”
Back in 2008, the parks and recreation commission hired an outside consulting firm to generate conceptual scenarios for the park land which included a number of athletic fields, a pavilion and a hard-surfaced basketball court, in addition to a parking lot.
Neighbors petitioned the city council in opposition, supporting only minimal playground equipment.
Four years later, residents are still wondering what the plan is.
Coons said he’d heard the parks and recreation commission was considering adding to the small playground annually. Wayne Croy, a resident of Windflower Lane, voiced the same concerns he did four years ago– the residential area cannot support a full-blown city park.
Mayor Cami Rasmussen and council members did their best to allay the concerns.
Rasmussen said the consensus of the council and the parks and recreation commission was that some small amenities, like a swing, might be added, but there were no plans to make it more than a small playground.
Council member Steve Stange said he got the message back in 2008. While he would support a park bench and maybe some trees for shade, he would not support any kind of athletic fields.
“I have no vision of that, ever,” Stange said. “This is a neighborhood park, nothing more than that, in my opinion.”
Council member Ron Herdliska said he was excited about the opportunity to create a playground on the east side of Highway 1. “We have nothing on the east side of town for our kids,” he noted.
All seemed to support the idea of putting a limited plan on paper, but warned that future councils could easily abandon those plans even if they were written.
It was determined council member Brad Kunkel would attend the next parks and recreation commission meeting, now rescheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 22, to pass on the council’s vision for limited park development.