Park maintenance varies in Kent

Emily Andrews

A park around every corner is something that is taken for granted, but a lot of planning, time and maintenance goes into keeping parks up to national and local standards.

The Kent Parks and Recreation Department is in charge of developing and maintaining park areas in Kent. It decides where parks are needed and what kind of parks to use.

There are three major types of parks, according to Parks and Recreation Director John Idone: neighborhood, community and special-use.

Neighborhood parks are designed to serve a half-mile radius. It normally doesn’t have parking and is within walking distance of a neighborhood. It usually will have a playground and three to 10 acres of grass area.

A community park is bigger, serving a two-mile radius. The size can be anywhere from six to 20 acres. Community parks normally have ball fields, restrooms and large playgrounds.

Special-use parks are used for special needs such as boat-launching, bike and hike trails and nature preserves.

“We go to the park every now and then,” Kent resident Paul Mandalin said. “We like to take the dogs out there.”

Maintenance for neighborhood and community parks vary. Since neighborhood parks are smaller, they generally only need mowing and garbage removal, but community parks have more amenities such as concession stands and parking, so it costs more to maintain.

The money to develop and maintain the parks comes from property tax levies, which generate over $1 million dollars for the Parks and Recreation Department per year, Idone said. Grants and programs sponsored by the department account for another $650,000, according to Idone.

There are three ways to decide whether an area needs a park. Proximity to people in the area, national standards and total park area are used to determine where a park is needed.

An assessment in 1995 showed where park area was needed in Kent. Kent was divided up by access barriers to determine where parks were needed. Access barriers are physical barriers that slow down access to the park such as rivers or railroads. It also took into account that school districts often have park and playground area attached to the school. Since 1995, the park area has increased from 300 to 475 acres.

Neighborhood parks are often obtained by using the parks and open space standard of the subdivision code, which is when a new subdivision goes into an area the subdivision has to provide park land, 10 acres of park land for every one thousand people. If the area is too close to an existing park or in an unfeasible area the subdivision owes the Park and Recreation Department the cost of the park land.

“For every new housing development, they have to provide park land,” Idone said. “It’s a quality of life thing. I think people appreciate it.”

Parks are also valuable in the property market. If a house is next to a park its property value goes up drastically. Idone said that lots next to a nature preserve in the Forest Lakes subdivision were going for $7,000 to $10,000 more than the lots across the street.

In the upcoming year, the Parks and Recreation Department has several plans. Idone said there are several undeveloped parcels of land. He said there are several acres at River Bend and four acres at Walls Elementary School that they want to develop. They are acquiring 10 acres for a possible mountain-bike trail near Towner’s Woods that would link Kent and Ravenna. They are also working on renovating playground equipment and a two-mile bike trail along the Cuyahoga River, which in the long-run could connect with the Summit County MetroParks.

There is a minimum amount of land that they will consider making into a park. Their limit is three acres because Idone said that the maintenance would outweigh the use.

The Parks and Recreation Board, which is a group of five volunteer members, work on day-to-day development and maintenance, but Kent City Council has final approval.

“Parks are a good thing,” Ward 2 council member Carrie Gavriloff said. “Diversion of parks is a good thing from having a picnic, walking on trails or using the playground equipment.”

Contact news correspondent Emily Andrews [email protected].