Back to the Future – Could we have had Worthington Commons in 2014?!
As the city nears a critical decision point in terms of the future of the UMCH property, we think it’s important for PCPW supporters to know that there has been broad advocacy for city acquisition of this parcel since at least 2014, and that this support included our city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.
Some nine years ago, Worthington was engaged in a process, led by consulting firm MKSK, to review and update the UMCH portion of the Comprehensive Plan. Our Parks and Recreation Commission, reflecting the feedback from residents engaged in that process, wrote a letter to City Council advocating that the city acquire the UMCH property for creation of a public park.
This quote, from the 2014 letter summarizes the Worthington Parks and Recreation Commissions sentiment (note – the full transcript of this memo is re-produced at the end of this email):
“The Parks and Recreation Commission urges City Council to consider every opportunity available to maximize the amount of UMCH property designated as park space for the community…. If the land is sold to a developer the Commission asks that City Council make every effort possible to reserve a large portion of the land (through zoning or purchase or otherwise) for parks and recreation and community space.”
This memo goes on to point out the uniqueness of the property and the opportunity it presented, and listed many of the desired features and amenities that the Commission had discussed driven by feedback from residents.
Regrettably, City leadership at the time did not respond favorably to this recommendation. Instead, the members of the Commission were told, in no uncertain terms, to never engage in this type of public advocacy again. Further, City leadership then adopted a high-density, apartment-heavy vision for the UMCH property which was contrary to what a majority of community participants in the 2014 process had just advocated.
We continue to live with the consequences of this abrupt flip-flop to this day. Fortunately, the land and its potential, remains intact! As our Parks and Recreation Commission knew then, we know now: the land at UMCH is ideally suited for a public purpose. It’s central location, largely undeveloped character and abundance of trees and foliage make it an ideal locale for our shared vision – Worthington Commons — open and accessible to all, and for all time.
If we are to prevail, current City leadership needs to hear from you. It is vital to our cause that we continue to let them know our position … we agree with the 2014 recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission and we urge council to take necessary steps to acquire the UMCH property.
Please take a few minutes and send a message with your thoughts to:
Kindest Regards – the PCPW Co-Chairs
TRANSCRIPT OF 2014 CORRESPONDENCE (referenced above)
TO: Matthew H. Greeson, City Manager
FROM: Darren Hurley, Parks & Recreation Director
DATE: August 5, 2014
SUBJECT: UMCH Motion and Position Statement
At their July 15 meeting, the Parks and Recreation Commission had a discussion and approved a motion made by Member Dan Armitage relating to the UMCH property. The motion is as follows:
The Parks and Recreation Commission urges City Council to consider every opportunity available to maximize the amount of UMCH property designated as park space for the community. A member designated by the Commission is drafting a letter outlining the discussion and ideas of the Commission throughout this process to be presented to Council.
There were four members present and the motion passed unopposed. Since that meeting, members have drafted the attached position statement and all members of the Commission as listed on the letter have approved the letter. It is attached for your review. The Commission has requested it be forwarded to City Council along with the motion they approved.
Dear Worthington City Council —
As members of the Parks and Recreation Commission we feel compelled to put in writing our thoughts and recommendations regarding the use of land at the UMCH property on North High Street in Worthington.
Over the last several months the Commission members met with Lee Brown, Director of the City’s Planning & Building Department and members of the community group, W.A.R.D to discuss the UMCH property. We also walked the site and discussed potential uses for the area. We were energized and excited by all the possible benefits to the community if additional green space is dedicated to Parks.
As you know, we have an exceptional Parks and Recreation system in Worthington. However, we are lacking in some areas, and we see possibilities for short term and long-term use at the UMCH property. Undeveloped land in Worthington is very limited. Opportunities to add recreation features currently absent from the City are even more limited. The UMCH property is unique in its location, size and proximity to Old Worthington and to the surrounding neighborhoods and could be utilized for community events such as concerts, art shows, taste of Worthington, and other gatherings that strengthen Worthington’s core values.
Some of the ideas the Commission discussed based on feedback from the residents in their communities included:
preservation of wildlife and specifically Tucker Run
a pond or lake to regulate storm water and be utilized for outdoor education including fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and stand up paddle board
natural play structures for children and residents
public access to large open green spaces for soccer, picnics, and community events
walking trails with connectivity to High Street
a splash park
shelter house of houses with restrooms (able to be reserved by community members)
ice skating and hockey rink (possible winter use for the pond)
amphitheater or community performance space
In a perfect world we would like for the site to be 100% parkland and recreation space available for community access and events. We would be remiss as representatives of the community and the Parks and Parks and Recreation Commission if we did not state our ideal vision of the UMCH property.
With that said, we realize that the city and the parks department have limited resources to purchase and to maintain such a large parcel of land. However, if UMCH was willing to donate the land we would ask that City Council take it, and over the next several years we would find a way to maintain it and develop it into recreational or community spaces.
If the land is sold to a developer the Commission asks that City Council make every effort possible to reserve a large portion of the land (through zoning or purchase or otherwise) for parks and recreation and community space.
In closing, the Commission recognizes and appreciates City Council’s obligation to consider a number of factors in addition to parks and recreation, but we wanted Council to know that we are strong proponents of designating the largest area possible for parks and recreation and community space.
Worthington Parks and Recreation Commission