North Canton is embarking on a $6 million project to expand and upgrade three of its parks — Bitzer Park on S. Main Street, Dogwood Park on Seventh Street NE and the creation of an arts and recreation district near the current Hoover Community Recreation Complex on E. Maple Street.
NORTH CANTON The city's park system is poised to undergo a major transformation.
North Canton is embarking on a project to expand and upgrade three of its parks — Bitzer Park on S. Main Street, Dogwood Park on Seventh Street NE and the creation of an arts and recreation district near the current Hoover Community Recreation Complex on E. Maple Street.
The plan, which could cost about $6.1 million, includes creating outdoor performance spaces, expanded parking, new pavilions and a large community playground.
North Canton's approach to parks and recreation is outdated, said Director of Administration Patrick DeOrio. The neighborhood parks approach, which focuses on placing small parks throughout the community, was introduced in the 1930s.
"North Canton has been clinging to that model well past its time," he said.
More current models involve placing parks wherever you can, such as pocket parks between buildings or old factories converted into recreation centers, he said. "It's getting more current programming in your park and rec operations. That's the key to long-term success."
DeOrio presented the park plan at Monday's North Canton City Council meeting.
The city's park system has come a long way already, said Council Vice President Doug Foltz, ward one. "It's exciting to see what the future can be."
The plan would be funded through a mix of public and private dollars. The city is asking the state for capital budget funds to cover $2 million or 33 percent of the costs. The city would cover up to 10 percent of the bill. The remaining money would come from private benefactors, he said, adding that North Canton is putting together a public-private partnership.
The project can be scaled or done in phases to adjust for available funding, he said.
North Canton will hold community meetings to gather input and ideas. If the city secures state funding, work on the project could begin this summer, DeOrio said.
The downtown park needs an outdoor performance space, DeOrio said.
The park hosts several events, including the Christmas tree lighting, but the lack of a stage makes it difficult for people to know what's happening and where, he said.
The park also is home to the city's veterans memorial.
The renovation would take advantage of existing space — the ground near the North Canton YMCA curves similar to a natural amphitheater — making it fit for an arced staged. The stage would have electricity.
The stage "gives us a little economic development tool," DeOrio said. It could host musicians during downtown events, such as the Main Street Festival, drawing more folks into the area.
The YMCA and North Canton Public Library also could use the stage for new programming, such as a children's theater company, he said.
The city is looking into the possibility of covering the stage with a World War II era airplane wing, he said.
The Bitzer Park project would cost about $100,000.
Plans call for turning what is a neighborhood park into a community park.
The pavilion at Dogwood Park is reserved nearly every day of the year. That popularity has put a strain on available parking, causing those who visit Dogwood to park at the nearby Dogwood Pool, on neighborhood streets or at Hoover High School.
Plans call for expanding the parking area from 25 spots to 87 spots.
The city also would eliminate the existing small playgrounds and build a large 22,000 square-foot play area.
Tentative plans also call for a "story walk" to teach children about the past, DeOrio said. The story walk would be a playground designed like a train depot, allowing kids to learn and play at the same time. It would tell the story of the 84 English children, many of them children of Hoover Co. employees, evacuated to North Canton during World War II.
Dogwood Park also would have a new outdoor performance space that could be enclosed during bad weather. The space could host outdoor movies, high school band performances or storytimes, DeOrio said.
The park would get additional restrooms and it would connect to the Stark Parks trail.
The Dogwood Park project would cost $1 million.
Art and Recreation District
The largest renovation would be the creation of an Art and Recreation District in the area of the current Little League fields and the Walsh University district.
The Little League program is popular but needs more parking to continue its growth, DeOrio said.
The current parking lot would be modified to have more spots and allow for a continuous turn out of the lot onto E. Maple for cars traveling west.
The city would create a "grand entrance" for the fields with a long brick or stone fence. The entrance would create an atmosphere of excitement for the facility, similar to some major league baseball stadiums, he said. "You know you've come somewhere when you get there."
Plans call for modifying the existing Stark Parks Trail, which currently ends in the middle of the parking lot.
The city would create a new trailhead — possibly a cascading wall or a pergola — that would let people know "this is a spot where you want to come to start your Stark Parks adventure," he said.
Those coming off the trailhead would see a natural biobasin that would support an extension of the wetlands already there. "We want to provide a more permanent water attraction for the wildlife already there," DeOrio said.
That biobasin may include a bridge or other features.
The park is ecologically designed so water would flow into the biobasin, rather than storm sewers, he said.
Plans call for creating a natural amphitheater. It would seat about 354 people and be constructed of stone walls and seats. A nearby offsite area would be used for storage.
The amphitheater would include a performance stage, with sound and lighting, and could be used for wedding ceremonies.
The city would build another facility in the park. The open air, glass enclosed pavilion would seat about 300 people and could be used as a backup venue during bad weather. It could also be rented for small events, such as showers and reunions.
The park also could hold sculptures and other art installations.
The Arts and Recreation District work would cost about $5 million.
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