Council applies for ODNR grant for proposed whitewater park

Carrie Banks

In a special meeting last night, Kent City Council voted 8-0 in favor of applying for a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to fund a whitewater park along the Cuyahoga River downtown.

The grant will request approximately $1.5 million from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Councilman Wayne Wilson said the special meeting was held to finalize plans to apply for the grant before the April 1 deadline.

John Idone, director of Kent Parks & Recreation, said the city expects the project to be completely grant funded. Grant recipients will be announced in the fall.

Several members of the audience attended the meeting in hopes of voicing their opinions about the park project, but Kent Mayor John Fender said the meeting would not be open to public comment, but that there would be future opportunities for the public to discuss the project.

Judi Cleary, owner of Cleveland Kayak School, traveled from Rocky River with hopes of voicing her opinion about why the Kent City Council should approve constructing a whitewater park along the Cuyahoga River.

She said she felt the project would promote the sport, while attracting enthusiasts to Kent.

“There are a lot of whitewater kayakers in the Northeast Ohio area and typically we always have to go to Pennsylvania or West Virginia,” Cleary said in an interview after the meeting. “The fact that we would have something in our backyard would be great. I think it’s a win-win for Kent and the whitewater community.”

The Kent Parks & Recreation Department and Main Street Kent hired Recreation Engineering and Planning, Colorado-based company, to develop a conceptual plan that would improve access to the river and modify the river’s water flow to facilitate whitewater activity. The plan focuses primarily on three sections from Crain Avenue to the John Brown Tannery Park.

Idone said the whitewater park could have a regional impact.

“It fits in nicely with making Kent a destination place for tourism . to attract people coming to the community to spend the day to shop, eat, and spend money in the community,” Idone said.

In other business, Gary Locke, Kent’s Community Development director, presented information about a neighborhood enrichment program.

“What council had asked us to do was to identify things that the city council could consider in improving our neighborhood.”

Locke listed three items: a property maintenance code, a ticketing program, and a re-evaluation of the licensing process for rental properties.

Locke compared Kent’s current exterior code with a proposed code for the city. The current code only covers residential properties and vacant commercial and industrial properties. The proposed code would expand upon the current code and extend coverage to all properties.

Locke also proposed an interior property maintenance code, something the city does not currently have. The proposed interior code would include items such as interior paint surfaces, habitable room sizes, food preparation areas, fire safety protection systems, plumbing systems and structural members.

An immediate concern of the Council was enforcement of the code and how it would effect the poor and elderly.

“I still believe the positive effects of this outweighs the potential negative, but it still concerns me … how this may impact certain individuals who do not have the resources,” said Councilman Robin Turner.

Locke acknowledged that this was a mutual concern and if the plan was considered, they would look to account for such demographics.

Contact public affairs reporter Carrie Banks [email protected].