The city has taken several steps in preparing a Master Improvement Plan for Memorial Park, which sits on about 31 acres, located on the west side of State Road, between North Akins Road and Royalton Road. The plan began last fall, when city administrators commissioned Cleveland-based Behnke Landscape Architecture for the project. Behnke is a leader in planning and designing award-winning outdoor places.
Currently, Memorial Park is the home of tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, a playground, a community garden, a skate park, a pavilion that overlooks a small pond and restroom facilities. It also has a walking trail and sports fields. Over the past few years, the size of the park has been expanded, with the purchase of property to the north and south of the original park. These properties were then included into the overall Memorial Park Master Plan.
Behnke received some 60 responses from public input through last December. After that initial input, Behnke put together a study and then presented a summary of the preliminary improvement options for the upgrading of the park to the North Royalton Recreation Board, for review. The price tag for what is initially proposed is between $2.9 million and $5.8 million.
The latest step was an open house that took place on February 22, when about 25 people attended to view the preliminary plans, talk to Behnke officials and offer their opinions. The plan is broken down into 23 sections of the park: State Road Frontage, Lot North of City Hall, City Hall Parking Lot, Wooded Hillside, Parking Lot, Skate Park, Shelter, Pond Island, Pond, Amphitheater Lawn, Area West and South of Pond, Great Lawn, Play Area, Bathrooms, Volleyball Courts, Shelter, New Splash Pad, All Purpose Trail, Soccer Field, Baseball Field, Soccer Field, Shot Put and Tennis/Basketball Courts.
When asked what he liked and didn’t like about the plan, Mayor Larry Antoskiewicz noted that “there’s a lot I like.  I like the walking paths all the way through and exercise stations.  I like the splash plan – that’s something people have really wanted for a long time.  I like the indoor pavilion.  I think that will be really used.”  He then added “I don’t think the dog park is going to work there.  It’s not that I don’t think that people wouldn’t like it, but I don’t see it fitting in at the park, because of the proximity to residents.  I just think that we need to find another spot in the city for something like that. Some cities have dog parks, but some cities shy away because there is a liability there.  It is also something that has to be maintained daily.”  
Behnke will now produce a final master plan of Memorial Park, including construction cost estimates, an input summary, site plans and potential funding sources.  According to Antoskiewicz, the administration will first have another meeting with Behnke.  “Then we should be close to take the information and finalize a plan to move forward on it.  I don’t think Council has to approve the plan, but they have to approve the expenditure.”  When asked if the project would move forward as a whole, or be sectioned off and developed partially over the next few years, Antoskiewicz said that “I, personally, would like to go at this thing 100%. . .Too many times, we just shuffle our feet and then things don’t get done.  I’d like to see the money allocated to start getting this done.  I would like to get things started right away.”  When asked how the project would be paid for, he said that “we would have to bond it out.
Contributing Writer