At the Vermilion Parks & Recreation Board meeting of January 21, 2020, Marc Weisenberger, Parks Supervisor, provided the board members with a Strategic Plan. Chairman Parker said he would like the board to review the plan, and then each month they can offer suggestions during the process. The first portion of the plan addressed Main Street Beach, the Victory Park gazebo, and the new playground at the Community Pool.

Weisenberger said this is just a starting point of the plan, and he would like feedback on what the board members think. If there are things they don’t think should be in the plan, then they can take them out. He said with a new funding source this plan could be useful, and he would like to get an assessment of each park and prioritize what they want to do at each park. There are different visions for the parks department moving forward, and Dana Corogin had some thoughts of what she would like to see when they passed the levy. With her hard work he would like to see that everybody’s vision is the same moving forward.

He said they also need to look at what they need to do on a park facility basis to support the recreation department, and what the Recreation Director is trying to do. He asked the parks board members to take some time reviewing the plan and make notes on what changes they would like to add or delete.

Marc Weisenberger thought slogans like ‘Parks Alive!’ or ‘Parks Make Life Better!’ would be interesting terms to use.

The plan addresses the downtown, as to some degree it basically is a park. There is Exchange Park, E. Exchange Park, Victory Park, Village on the Greens, and Friendship Park. So they need to define the responsibilities of the Parks Department in helping to keep the movement moving forward and strong, which includes volunteer effort.

He said Vermilion in Bloom and the Tree Commission all work together to keep the parks sustainable. Preserving and enhancing the positive qualities of Vermilion is part of the vision.

The mission he suggested is: Maximize park usage, providing safe, clean, attractive, functional, well-maintained parks, beaches, and public areas to be enjoyed by all. He said if the members have other suggestions, he would welcome them. Values as they are making decisions could be centered around: Public Safety, Community Engagement and Collaboration, Accountability, Pride and Professionalism, Quality and Excellence, Integrity and Trust, and Sustainability. To sum this up he encouraged Beautification, Quality Park, Development and Maintenance.

Board Chair Parker suggested adding something like ‘Attracting Participation or Use’.

Mayor Forthofer asked Weisenberger if he was suggesting that there be some dedicated effort at promoting the parks with his tag line suggestions on the first page of the plan. He said there was a promotional campaign surrounding the levy, so he thought this was a good idea as an ongoing thing.

Weisenberger said they should use social media to their benefit to promote different projects in the parks moving forward, as well as different activities in the parks. They discussed possible website changes as they move forward with this plan.

Weisenberger stated that Active Tourism is something Erie County publicizes on their website. It incorporates some of the new paddle boarding, kayaking, bicycling, trails, etc. He thought this was something they could incorporate into thoughts at Sherod Park when updating the park.

He thought residents, parks users, park board members, city employees and administration, visitors and tourists, community organizations and the Vermilion City Schools should be engaged to gather information to develop a Parks Master Plan and an Operations Plan that outlines the community’s vision.

Board Member Brudney suggested adding promotion from visitors and tourists that come to the city. Weisenberger said this is an interesting point, and during certain times of the year they seem to do everything for the tourists and they need to keep a balance between the residents and the tourists. He said tourists are important especially in a community like Vermilion. They want to make sure they offer them the amenities they are looking for, but they can’t forget about the residents. Keeping balance is important and vital and he agreed this should be a part of the plan.

Weisenberger wanted to take some of the projects and prioritize the key areas. He said plans included a Disk Golf Course Design at Sherod Park, but he didn't think this would fit the location as they want a lot of tree cover and wooded area. He thought a fitness trail at Sherod Park could be their number one priority, while they work on trying to find some bigger dollars to address the shoreline retention and parking lot. At Showse they have some of the same concerns as far as the playground equipment, basketball and tennis courts needing updated. He said he looked at some courts in Sandusky that were very nice because they weren’t resurfaced; they poured a concrete basketball court and striped it and didn’t put any fencing around it, which makes it look very clean. He said long term this probably saves them $20,000 a year because they won’t have to resurface them every five to 10 years, so this is something Vermilion could consider moving forward with.

Brudney asked if they have an update on the lady who was trying to raise money for playground equipment at Sherod Park. Parker said she applied to Firelands Hospital and was denied, so she applied to Mercy Health to see if they would want to partner and their Director of Community Health is going to reach out to the Lorain and Erie County Health Department’s Community Health person, both of whom have done a lot of good grant work. He personally will follow up with Mercy Health’s Director again next week. They are willing to facilitate something.

Weisenberger said that Betsy Wakefield did a nice job in helping him develop a gift catalog and brochure, which will be going to the printer soon. It lists costs for park benches, picnic tables, and trees in the parks if somebody wants to give a memorial gift or honorary gift. He said they also started in developing some options for the outdoor pool.

Parker asked the board to note their ideas on the pages they discussed, and to prioritize them as they deem fit and bring them back to next month’s meeting.

Weisenberger said he would like to schedule a Sherod Park work session the third week in February as Erie County Soil and Water would like to come to Vermilion to discuss, as a whole, what would work well at Sherod Park. He said they can jot down ideas of what they would like to see in the future.

Brudney said he had an aerial photo of Sherod Park and the west side of the creek has a playground, fields, parking, benches at the beach - but the east side there is nothing really there, so there’s no use for a parking lot if there isn’t anything to go to. They need to come up with a good plan on what needs to happen on the east side of the park.

Board Member Kuhns wondered if it would be a potential area for a dog park, as it wouldn’t bother neighbors. Weisenberger said they were looking at the area by incorporating a little bit of the hill where the ballfield sits and go down the hill and along the creek, as it’s not an area that gets used. The existing shelter house could be part of the dog park as there is nice grade separation where the owner could sit at the top of the hill and throw a ball down for the dogs. He thought it would be a unique area for a dog run. He said they could leave enough room for a trail between the dog park and the creek. He said the vision is that Sherod is more of a passive park, whereas Showse would be more of an active park with ball diamonds and courts.

Weisenberger said he will contact Erie County Soil and Water to see what dates work for them during the day to meet informally to brainstorm.