The Bradner Preserve will receive more than $300,000 in upgrades next year, according to a proposed capital improvements budget reviewed Tuesday by the Wood County Park District board.
An expanded drive, new parking lot and renovations to a home on the property will be partially paid for with funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation in addition to park district funds.
Bradner Preserve is the county's largest park, with public access from both U.S. 23 and Timmons Road near Bradner. Board members discussed improvements planned for next year as well as those laid out for coming years.
The property lacks a parking lot, and a house there will be renovated to make it more suitable for park district programs and events. Trails and a boardwalk will be expanded and restrooms installed, and a seven-acre field will be taken out of crop rotation and reforested.
"I foresee this being a heavily-used park, not only for park visitors but for us conducting programs and things," said park district Director Neil Munger.
"I think it's just got so much potential," said Mary Krueger, vice chair of the board.
Cedar Creeks Preserve near Northwood will also see significant upgrades under the 2014 proposal. In addition to a 2013 carryover project to add a pedestrian bridge over Cedar Creek, $59,000 will be spent to construct stone trails and a boardwalk in the park. Munger said that project represents the final stage of planned improvements at Cedar Creeks.
The park district's 2014 budget has not yet been approved.
Separately, the board learned the recipients of the 2014 Local Park Improvement Grant Program. Of the $100,000 to be given next year, the largest project approved was restroom construction in Bloomdale for $25,000.
With such a large area, Wood County started the grant program to provide for local parks, a substitute for many who do not have direct access to county parks, explained Bob Callecod, board chair.
"On the other hand, we realized that this is a large county with a lot of small communities where they're on very limited budgets and yet they have kids that need to be provided for in terms of recreation opportunities," Callecod said. "It has done immeasurable good for many, many of these smaller communities."
Jeff Baney, assistant director, noted that many villages just don't have the money to invest in their parks. Bloomdale, for example, has a yearly budget of about $5,000, which is dwarfed by the $25,000 restroom project.
"Without our assistance, it would not have happened," Baney said.
Many smaller parks scattered throughout the county simply wouldn't exist without the grant program, Munger added.
Other approved projects include: Custar, $10,000 for safety mulch and play equipment; Lake Township, $9,982 for play equipment; Jerry City, $9,330 for play equipment, basketball courts and goals, and a drinking fountain; Weston, $7,921 for safety surfacing; and Grand Rapids, $7,274 for pool repairs.
Haskins, Luckey, North Baltimore, Pemberville, Risingsun, Rossford and Walbridge also received some funding under the program.
In other business, board members approved a merit raise system for park district staff, who will receive pay increases from zero to 4 percent based on yearly evaluations. The board also voted to approve closure of the park district offices for Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving.
There was additional discussion of revisions to the park district's strategic plan, which won't be presented in detail until next month.
At the request of an employee present at the meeting, the board entered executive session to discuss personnel with no action being taken.