CIRCLEVILLE — Circleville City Council once again heard from another resident asking for them to reconsider plans for Ted Lewis Park and this time, council offered more response.
Ericka Morgan spoke to Circleville City Council about Ted Lewis Park, specifically the removal of the basketball courts and how it brought her children to tears to learn of their removal to make way for the renovations to the park.
“I’ve had great memories at this park and now I watch the skate park get torn down and I watched the basketball courts get torn down with no communication to us about them being torn down,” she said.
“My child is upset and I have children crying and upset about the park. I understand it’s being redone, but not being told that it’s being taken down in stages. A little bit of warning would have been good to know the basketball courts are coming down.”
A master plan and multi-phase renovation plan was created in 2015 following community surveys and focus groups, organized by G2 Planning and Design. Renovations began in 2018 with the extending of Ted Lewis Drive through the park and recently, the northeast corner of the park has been torn down to make way for a splash pad, playground equipment, new bathrooms and the related infrastructure.
As part of that survey, with more than 860 responses, basketball, tennis courts and the skate park were among the lowest requests.
Morgan offered several suggestions, including some ideas that were tossed around during the initial decision making process, such as putting in basketball courts in the southwest corner of the park.
“A teenager is not going to want to play on a playground or in the splash pad,” she said.
“If they have maybe a couple friends with them, they can play one-on-one basketball. They can’t really go play a baseball game. My question is, can we have a basketball court in Ted Lewis?”
Morgan also spoke about American Rescue Plan Act funding, specifically the approximately $11.4 million that Pickaway County will receive, being delegated for parks, but that money has specific uses and has not been designated for that use.
Following Morgan’s comments, several members of Circleville City Council, including Katie Logan Hedges, who asked if they can change the master plan at this point now that renovations have started and $1.5 million has been borrowed for the park.
“I feel like recently, people have repeatedly brought this issue up and we’ve habitually said that we sent out the survey and so many people responded and this plan that was started almost 10 years ago was based on those 800 responses,” she said.
“I think there are definitely segments of people who want something done and I don’t think that council or administration should do just what certain segments want, but I don’t understand how we’re making this plan eight years later for a whole group of people who are completely different now that all these different things have happened in our community.
Is this still able to be discussed because if not, when people come up, can we openly say to them there’s nothing more we can do?”
David Crawford, council president, told Hedges that if council so chooses, they can stop things.
“You can stop the plan or the mayor can stop working on the park,” Crawford said. “I think the administration and council in the past have said there are other opportunities for a basketball courts and tennis courts.”
Hedges asked if they’re going to take things out, that if they can stop doing it until they put things in elsewhere.
“We keep having these poor people come in front of us, we say thank you and then they go sit down,” Hedges said.
Barry Keller, council member, suggested that they continue with the current phase they’ve already borrowed money for, which he said the whole time of this renovation has been the issue.
“The issue has been funding projects and the Ted Lewis project is a multi-phase project,” he said.
“To be able to start the project, the city borrowed $1.5 million to do phase one. I would think that as [Hedges] said, there have been different groups — skate park, softball, basketball, tennis, pickelball, all come back up after the fact when we’ve had all this public input.
So to say we’ll change directions or derail at this point, I think you have to continue on with phase one. There are still phases two and three that can be talked about, but to me, we’ve committed to phase one where there’s a lot of infrastructure. Maybe going forward with changes in the other phases, but I’m not in support of derailing the current phase one project.”
Don McIlroy, Circleville Mayor, invited Morgan to meet with him about plans for the skate park and other amenities.
“I’ve had discussions with my staff and we’re going to move forward on this, but we’d love to have input on the community,” he said. “We have a good idea of where it could go and we have the equipment to put it in.”
Todd Brady, council member, also suggested to Morgan to meet with the people involved in creating a pickleball court at Barthelmas Park.
“They get quick results,” he said. “They’ll be very helpful in helping you get what you want.”