Kent Parks and Recreation to hold public meeting on upcoming projects

Erin Dean

The Kent Parks and Recreation board is holding a public meeting today to discuss ideas for the River Bend Park and the water access development projects.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m.?at the Roy Smith Shelterhouse in Fred Fuller Park. Kent Parks and Recreation got an official approval a few weeks ago to proceed with its development projects, which will be funded in part by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to the $250,000 grant from the ODNR, the projects will also be paid with $50,000 in park funds.

Kent Parks and Recreation Director John Idone said the idea of the projects is to increase the accessibility to the Cuyahoga River and to make the river user-friendly for less-experienced visitors.

“I think this is certainly one more thing adding to the quality of life in Kent,” Idone said. “It’s helping make it a place you would want to live and work. It certainly is consistent with the city’s goals in positioning Kent as an outdoor community.”

The plans for the park developments are several years in the making. Kent City Manager Dave Ruller has mentioned these development plans more than once in his blog, Kent360. In a blog posted in April 2008, Ruller said conservation, recreation and economic development were the cornerstones of the Kent community’s priorities.

In a recent blog, Ruller advocated the parks’ enhancements.

“Whether you call it a whitewater park or a river recreation, we think the project holds great promise for Kent,” he said.

Part of the development project is a new river access spot at River Bend Park. The seven-acre park, located on River Bend Boulevard, currently has no public parking area designated for park visitors.

Idone said one plan is to put in a small parking lot with a trail down to the river. Also, there would be a concrete ramp to create easy access for boat launching.

The other aspect of the project includes making improvements along the Kent Dam. Idone said the current bypass around the dam is through old canal locks, which create for hazardous terrain, especially when the water levels are high.

“Someone not experienced with the route could get into difficulty,” Idone said. “They could head into that area filled with debris and snags. When water is up, there are some safety concerns through that narrow chute.”

He said they also will put in a boat landing upstream of the Main Street Bridge with a set of stairs and a canoe rail where walking up the steps is easier when you can glide your boat up easily. There will also be a second set of steps constructed off of the deck to launch back into the river.

The public meeting will mainly focus on the River Bend Park developments. Idone said he hopes residents from the River Bend neighborhood and other people interested in the project will come and give ideas on how they would like to see the park developed.

A follow-up meeting will be held six to eight weeks after Tuesday’s meeting with preliminary designs. Idone said Kent Parks and Recreation selected R.E. Warner and Associates to be the design and engineering consultants for the projects.

“They have an impressive resume,” Idone said. “They’ve worked with local and state parks in Ohio for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. They are highly qualified for this job.”

The project designing will continue throughout summer and with a 90-day estimated construction time, Idone hopes the projects will be completed by July 2011.

Contact public affairs reporter Erin Dean at [email protected].