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Major upgrades to the Stow park system moved onto city council’s agenda

Over the next 10 years, the City of Stow will launch major upgrades to its parks and recreation system, including constructing a new community center and creating a trail system throughout the city.

A proposed Parks and Recreation Master Plan went before the City of Stow’s Public Improvements Committee on July 28. The nearly 200-page document was then moved on City Council’s agenda and had its first reading that evening.

Some of the priorities outlined in the Master Plan include: developing a multi-generational, multi-purpose community center; increasing staff; expanding quality programs and events; and upgrading existing parks.

There are also developments in progress at the recently acquired 36-acre Hanson Property at the corner of Call Road and Young Road, across from Fox Den Golf Course. Stow’s city administration plans for the property to include an upgraded driving range and a new recreational space that will create a “greenbelt” between Silver Springs Park and Fox Den Golf Course. Greenbelts encompass various types and scales of landscapes, including recreational parks.

Stow Mayor John Pribonic said that because Stow lacks a downtown area, the city has to capitalize on its green space and recreational opportunities.

“Every piece of recreation we provide for our residents actually comes back to us as far as economic development,” he said. “We want to make this a destination, and we want residents to bring people from outside the community to show them what Stow has to offer.”

Also included in the plans for the property is a 6.1-acre cemetery in the area of the existing Hanson family cemetery already on the property that dates back to the 1800s. The new cemetery will likely contain 3,500 gravesites and be accessible from Young Road, whereas the recreational spaces will be accessed on Call Road, with plenty of natural buffering — like newly planted trees — between the two to create a serene and respectful space, according to a press release from the Parks and Recreation Department.

For the remaining 20 acres of the Hanson Property, city administration will use the Parks and Recreation Master Plan as a guide for further developments but plans to provide other recreational activities on the property besides golf.

One of the keys to fulfilling all the goals of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan is developing sustainable funding strategies and sources. While the Master Plan was just recently added to the council’s agenda, it is exceptionally long and detailed. Council still has much to review and discuss to put the plan into action, which is something council members said they will be focusing on over the next few weeks.

“No dollar amounts have been committed to anything in particular at this point,” said Linda Nahrstedt, director of Stow’s Parks and Recreation Department. “Those are items that will be discussed and decided upon as the parks board, the administration and city council move forward.”

The Parks and Recreation Master Plan is the result of a year-long collaboration between the City of Stow and the project planning firm PROS Consulting. The process of developing the Master Plan also included a community survey where about 1,700 residents voiced their opinions and concerns regarding the future of Stow’s parks, trails and recreation facilities.

“Our residents have responded to our public engagement and have strongly indicated they want a higher level for our parks system than what we currently have,” Nahrstedt said. “The potential projects and improvements in the plan are a reflection of the feedback our residents gave to us through that public engagement process.”

In the comments from the survey — which are available in the Master Plan PDF — respondents were asked to prioritize the top four recreational amenities for their households. The amenity receiving the strongest support was a community center/recreation center.

As a result, the city has engaged a consulting team to complete a feasibility study for a multi-purpose, multi-generational indoor recreation facility. The feasibility study is meant to provide the city with information on the market and demand for services, potential operational costs and the capital investment needed for construction.

As part of the feasibility study, residents can participate in a survey that asks about desired amenities at a recreation center and potential costs.

The ultimate goal of the Master Plan is to elevate Stow’s parks, with a strong emphasis on community engagement, to create a “high-quality park and recreation system that the community and the city are willing to invest in,” according to the Master Plan document.

You can view the Parks and Recreation Master Plan here.