The Elyria administration is planning a town hall meeting regarding its Parks and Recreation Department.
The session will take place at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 12, at the Thomas Shores South Recreation Center, 215 16th St. in Elyria.
There will be a presentation on the status of the most recent master plan and updates from Mayor Frank Whitfield, according to a news release.
Participants in the town hall will have to adhere to coronavirus public health guidelines of social distance and to wear masks.
Capacity will be limited, but Elyria residents will have priority admission.
Attendees will be able to take a confidential online survey to share thoughts about completed projects, proposed new projects and experiences, the release said.
“We have a duty to listen, to respond, to collaborate and support the needs and desires for residents,” Whitfield said. “So often, elected officials (regardless of location, party, age, etc.) make decisions for people, without consulting or involving the people.”
Surveys also will be mailed to a random sampling of Elyria households.
The feedback is designed to help update the master plan, which Whitfield has said he wants to do.
“One of the top reasons Elyrians tell us they love living here, is our great network of parks,” he said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen residents of all ages taking advantage of the beauty right outside our doors — hiking, bicycling, bird watching, painting in the park — all safe activities during current conditions. “
The city released its last master plan for the Parks and Recreation Department in 2016.
A sizable amount of the money for the upgrades came from Issue 6, a 0.5% income tax in the city.
Upgrades from the master plan included the recreational centers, new playground equipment and splash pads.
“Local participation — and more specifically, Elyria participation is incredibly important for the upcoming town hall because we want to ensure the individuals who fund parks, recreation and programming have the programming they want and will utilize, and have park infrastructure updates that matter the most to them,” Whitfield said.
There will be no discussion of the parks director, Carrie Reardon, he said.
The discussion of Reardon and the Parks and Recreation Department has been on the table for both the mayor and City Council.
Earlier in the year, Whitfield laid off Reardon due to lack of programming and financial reasons.
He has said he wanted to hear the public’s input before making a choice.
“When the work increases and once we get the feedback from the master plan of what people want, then we’ll start to slowly bring folks back based on safety and based on the resources available,” the mayor has said. ” … We incrementally will be bringing things back, but then we also want to hear the feedback from the community on what they want to see.”
Council members publicly asked the mayor to rehire Reardon three times.
They stated the city can use CARES Act funds to provide Reardon’s salary, and now since programming is slowly coming back, a director is needed.
Whitfield has said that right now there is not enough work for a director to be rehired, but that as programming gradually returns, the city will revisit bringing people back to that department.
“The direction of our parks, recreation, and programming exists outside of any one person or position,” he said. “The focus of this town hall is to discuss Elyria resident’s ideas, hopes and needs.”