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Strong Viewpoints

Meeting set to discuss Washington Park plan

Times Observer file photo Washington Park which overlooks the city will be the focus of a public meeting set for June 8 at 6 p.m. at a location that is still TBD. A conceptual site plan will be presented for review at that session.

There have been strong opinions expressed on both sides of the fence in response to the possibility of development at Washington Park.

The City of Warren Parks & Recreation Commission has decided to hold a special public session to hear from anyone with an opinion on the issue.

The meeting is set for June 8 at 6 p.m. The location is still to be determined.

A conceptual site plan will be provided by the firm, Mackin Engineering, that is completing the city’s parks plan.

Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz said that the “whole idea” of the meeting is to bring the commission and the public together and “give them ample time” so that the group can “have real constructive discussion.”

“I would love to see something more at that park than trees and picnic tables,” Commission member Kris Whitaker said. But she raised concerns about security at the park if restrooms and pavilions were constructed there.

Andy Georgakis with the Northern Allegheny Mountain Bike Association said they have seen little of that kind of vandalism at Jakes Rocks, suggesting that some is likely curtailed due to the consistent traffic on the trails.

“I know at Jakes people are pretty respectful and there’s a lot of traffic there,” he said.

“I don’t see people driving 100 miles to use the trails as the problem,” Commission chair Mike Suppa said. “(I) see the problem being more here.”

While many commission members withheld comments on the future of the park for the June 8 meeting, it was evident that any changes at the park won’t be unanimous.

Commission member Kirk Johnson said the park’s nature as a passive park means that “really any kind of exploration of development (is) really not appropriate” and “really shouldn’t go forward.”

He challenged the meeting minutes, arguing that a comment he made at the last meeting should be included to the same effect, specifically indicating that mountain biking trails would be an inappropriate use.

He suggested his comment was “kind of swept under the rug.”

“I think that’s inappropriate in your opinion,” Suppa said.

COMMISSION RECOMMENDS COUNCIL APPROVE PARK PLAN

While the Washington Park piece is to be settled after the June public hearing, it’s also separate from the broader park plan.

And the commission recommended during Tuesday’s meeting that council approve that plan.

“I thought the plan was very good,” Suppa said, calling it “very all encompassing.”

One of the key items discussed is the fact that government funding entities won’t fund projects if they’re not in a plan like this.

“Everything is in the soup here,” Suppa said. “Lots of these things won’t happen. Some of them will.”

Johnson suggested the plan include a possible outdoor skating rink, suggesting Betts Park as the “most likely” location.

The commission then formally recommended that council approve the plan. Johnson voted in opposition — the only member to do so — to “avoid appearance” of “any kind of rubber stamping” of proposals for Washington Park.

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