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North Hills

Ross officials debate upgrades to Sangree Park; approve measure seeking funding

Tony LaRussa
| Thursday, March 22, 2018, 3:33 p.m.
Ross commissioners have spent nearly a year debating plans to upgrade Sangree Park, where the play area is far from an attraction for residents.
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Ross commissioners have spent nearly a year debating plans to upgrade Sangree Park, where the play area is far from an attraction for residents.

Ross commissioners have taken a major step toward making improvements to Sangree Park by agreeing to apply for a state grant to help pay for about half the cost of the first phase of upgrades.

While submitting the grant application does not guarantee funding, the commissioners wrangled over the overall costs for improvements to the 9.33-acre park — estimated at about $3 million — and whether the $650,000 needed to cover the first round of work would be money well spent.

The initial work calls moving the location of the play area deeper into the park so it can be farther away from vehicle traffic. Plans also call for building a land bridge over a tributary to allow access to the back of the park for emergency vehicles and people with physical challenges, which is a state requirement if the area is utilized.

To accomplish that, the basketball courts will be moved closer to the front entrance.

Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, who cast the lone vote against seeking the grant, questioned whether the price for multi-phase improvements is warranted. “Spending $3 million on one park will destroy our park budget,” he said. “We have a lot of needs. I think we can make Sangree a really nice park for a fraction of the cost.”

Subsequent phases of work includes:

• Restoration of the stream bed in the park

• Adding stormwater management systems

• Addressing deforestation caused by the emerald ash borer

• Construction of a “green roof” shelter

• Building a walking trail around the park perimeter

• Refurbishing the ball field, including dugouts, a new backstop and spectator seating

Already eliminated from the original design is a splash pad or sprinkler park, which was jettisoned after officials learned that such a feature could cost upward of $1 million. A 2012 survey of Ross residents determined that a spray park was one of the top requests and that Sangree was an optimal location.

Complaints from residents also prompted officials to scrap original plans to alter the footprint of the ball field.

Shaffer said keeping the playground and basketball court in their current location was one measure that might help save money on the project.

But Commission President Steve Korbel, who represents the ward where Sangree is located, challenged Shaffer's assertion. “Whether we put it (the playground) in the front or back of the park, to the left or right, or float it in the sky, it's still going to cost $382,000,” he said, adding that the same is true for the $250,000 cost of the land bridge and the $24,000 needed for site preparation.

“Those costs will not change regardless of the rearrangement of the park,” Korbel said.

Eloise Peet, parks and recreation director, said it has been at least 20 years since the playground in Sangree has been upgraded.

Korbel said while some residents have loudly opposed nearly every aspect of the Sangree Park plan, they do not represent the majority opinion.

He said many of the residents with whom he has met want the walking trail, which would cost about $900,000; and others were dismayed at losing the splash park. “I took so much heat from people in my ward about the fact that the splash pad was removed,” he said. “Dozens of people called me about it.”

Korbel defended the cost of a playground proposed for Phase 1, noting that nearly as much was spent to build one in Herge Park. “Good things cost good money,” he said. “We're not committed to spending $3 million on Sangree Park. All we're saying is, install a new playground and rebuild the land bridge. The other phases will be a decision for future boards to make if they want to continue with this plan.”

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