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Volunteer efforts fuel new shelter

Parks and Recreation Commission makes the most of a tight budget
This new shelter at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area was built in late July with volunteer labor and monetary donations from area organizations and families. Budget cuts stalled the project for over a year. (photos by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Sometimes the kids don’t get along with the parents, and vice versa. In the end, however, time adds perspective.
At a joint meeting of the Solon City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission, some of the members of the municipal family got together to see how things were going.
The commission has been particularly active lately, despite having budget requests trimmed for the current fiscal year. A new park shelter was constructed in late July at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area (SRNA), and two new diamonds were added as well. The vast majority of both projects were funded through contributions from the community.
“The shelter looks great down there,” council member Brad Kunkel told the commission members. “Thanks for seeking out the help and getting it done.”
The commission had been trying to get the shelter built for over a year, but budget overruns and revenue shortfalls in subsequent years continued to get in the way, as did frustrations with the council.
The shelter project all started with a contribution from the family of Brett Smith, but it took added donations from the Solon Area Community Foundation, the Octagon Club of Solon, Stebral Construction and Kevin Kidwell to get it done.
Parks and Recreation coordinator Travis Young noted that Kidwell had helped line up the construction, while Stebral had donated all the labor.
The Solon Area Community Foundation and the Octagon Club of Solon provided funding to cover the cost of materials, Young said.
The shelter was finished in late July, but the concrete floor has not yet been poured, Young said. He indicated the city is working with area contractors to finish the job.
In addition to the shelter, which is located adjacent to the tennis courts, two new ball diamonds were added to the SRNA, complete with backstops and partial fencing (one has a dugout). Both were made possible, Young said, by community donations, although some parks and recreation budget funds were expended.
“I want thank you for being persistent about the shelter and the diamonds,” council member Ron Herdliska told commission members. “I think it’s taken quite a while to get everything completed and I’m just happy that you stayed on it and stayed with the course and got it done.”
“It’s hard when you hear from us, ‘Sorry, there’s no money,’” Mayor Steve Stange said. “That’s very discouraging.” But he encouraged the commission members to see the council’s perspective and the amount of city expense that goes into maintaining city parks and recreation programming. “The reality is we’re spending quite a bit on it,” he said.
“We cost a lot, but we’re also able to bring in income,” said commission member Jennifer Allen. “That’s where I think the frustration is.”

The two groups also discussed new rates for the Timer DOME Lodge, the pending return of sand volleyball, and a recent query from Al Wells regarding the possible use of the downtown park bandstand for wedding ceremonies.
Wells had been present at a June 12 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, wondering whether the city would allow weddings to be hosted at the bandstand in City Park, across the street from Wells’ Palmer House Stable.
The commission members told Wells the city council would have to decide, according to the minutes from that meeting.
“I think it’s kind of cool that people would actually want to have a wedding in our downtown,” Stange said. “I think that’s very neat that they think enough of it that they want it to be a part of their special day.”
Council members discussed whether or not an event application would be required, or whether renting the bandstand would be more like renting a park shelter.
Council member Casey Grover suggested setting a rate for public use between those charged for the Randall Park shelter and the Timber DOME Lodge. “Kind of meet somewhere in the middle of that,” he suggested.
Council members didn’t want to close the parking lot adjacent to the bandstand, and felt a deposit would be needed to cover expenses for clean-up if necessary.
Public Works Director Scott Kleppe, however, didn’t like the idea at all.
“I’m not in favor of it,” Kleppe said when asked his opinion. “After the first event, I think we’re going to realize real fast that this isn’t the place for a wedding.”
Lack of available parking and added congestion downtown were his main concerns, and he recommended against allowing the erection of tents or any temporary structure that would need to be drilled into the ground.
Stange suggested the item be placed on a future council agenda for further consideration.
Council and commission members eventually agreed that it would be better to require an event application, which would give the city a chance to control the types of events and the number of people using the park.
“I’d say do case-by-case,” said commission member Lindsey Carey. “I don’t even figure too many people will want to get married there. That’s not a prime wedding location.”

The Timber DOME Lodge, on the other hand, is a prime location for gatherings, and the commission has increased rates for its use by $25 across the board. The rates had not been increased for five years.
Half day rentals are now $100 (before 5 p.m.) and $150 (after 5 p.m.), while full day rentals are $200 (before 5 p.m.) and $300 (after 5 p.m.), with an additional deposit required. Solon residents receive a 15 percent discount.
“Next year, we have every weekend in May booked, pretty much all June, and already some August and September,” reported City Clerk Susie Siddell.