SIDNEY — “Over the years, Sidney’s leadership has done many things well,” Shelby County Commissioner and Levy Chair Bob Guillozet said. “One of those things is planning for the future, and a prime example of that is the planning that has taken place to enhance Sidney’s parks and the opportunities offered for recreational activities.”
The city of Sidney has placed a .5% municipal earned income tax levy on the March 19, 2024, ballot. The tax, if approved, will replace the .125% tax currently being levied for the repair or streets and bridges. It will be used to provide general funds for the needs of the city if it is passed.
“As part of our planning for the future,” Parks and Recreation Director Duane Gaier said, “we recently went to the public and asked what it was they would like to see offered both in our parks and in recreational programming. This information was gathered by engaging the public through a parks and recreation master planning process.”
“Multiple virtual and in-person public meetings were held,” Parks and Recreation Board Member and Levy Committee Member Ed Thomas said. “We also provided an online survey that was available so that members of the public could provide input.”
The data was gathered, evaluated, and prioritized by the consultants hired for the project. The results were recently published in Parks and Recreation Master Plan, a 248 page document that will be used to help guide planning for the future.
“With this new plan in place,” Gaier said, “Sidney’s parks can better plan for the future. We now have a system-wide, comprehensive park, trail, and recreational programming master plan. Public engagement was essential. It allowed us to use the data collected and align that data with recreational trends as the plan was being written.”
After their review and final editing, the Parks and Recreation Board approved the plan last year. Their approval was followed by a review of the plan by Sidney City Council. Council adopted the Parks and Recreation Master Plan at their meeting on Nov. 11, 2023.
“The city has provided a diverse amount of active and passive recreational opportunity for our residents,” Gaier said. “A sampling of those include the Canal Feeder Trail, the Inclusive Play Area in Tawawa Park, the pickleball courts located at Custenborder Field, and the dog park located at Deam Park. With guidance from our residents, the master plan will enable us to take recreational programming to an even higher level.”
“Of course, how quickly we can move forward will be dependent upon funding,” Gaier said. “That is just one reason passage of the passage of the levy is important to us.”
Guided by the master plan and approval of the levy by voters, projects that will be undertaken include expanding the number of pickleball courts and the addition of lighting that will facilitate evening play. For the fifth year in a row, pickleball continues to be the fastest growing sport in the country.
“The activity on the local courts has been nothing short of amazing,” Gaier said. “All ages and abilities have been able to enjoy Sidney’s newest recreational opportunity. There is a real need to increase the number of courts and to add lighting to help fulfill that need.”
Another levy-funded project would create an urban trail system that would connect the Canal Feeder trailhead in Graceland Cemetery through the downtown and into Tawawa Park. The trail would follow abandoned rail spurs and canal land, utilizing the Stolle Bridge, passing through Custenborder Fields and connecting with the existing trail system in Tawawa Park.
“Cyclists, runners and walkers would be able to utilize safe, off-road trails from the west suburbs of Sidney into Tawawa Park, or south beyond the Great Miami River,” Gaier explained. “The connector would utilize currently unused railroad property that was used daily prior to the construction of the Big Four Bridge in 1923, but that has remained unused since.”
Another envisioned trail project is the extension of the Veteran’s Memorial Walkway to the north from Johnson Park. This would add an additional mile of trail along the Sidney Feeder Canal, with beautiful views of the Great Miami River.
If the voters approve the levy, Julia Lamb Park would see major changes to its greenspace. The master plan identified the need to incorporate a civic amphitheater for the performing arts. The venue would include associated infrastructure including restrooms, concession facilities and off-street parking. The design would retain a play area, walkway, football field and shelter but in different locations than where the amenities currently are positioned within the park.
Also identified by the parks master planning process were improvements to Deam Park, which includes the addition of a splash pad, new play structure, pavilion and seating along with enhanced access to all of these areas. Restrooms would be upgraded that would provide for handicapped accessibility.
Another project that has garnered an enthusiastic response was the creation of a skate park. The creation of a skate park would provide a venue for skateboarders, who currently create their own venues along city streets and sidewalks.
While many of these projects will take time (three to five years) for implementation, other projects can be addressed more quickly. Some of those would include parking lot and trail repaving, a disk golf course in Tawawa Park, way-finding and area signage for Tawawa Park and the replacement of old and out-dated play structures throughout the city.
“Sidney’s parks are available to the public year-round,” long-time Parks and Recreation Board Member Amy Zorn stated. “Whether you are participating in active recreation such as baseball, softball, pickleball or soccer or enjoying the passive recreation available such as walking the miles of trail, birding in Tawawa, or enjoying a family picnic under the many shelters and pavilions, Sidney’s park system is always available for the public’s use. With appropriate funding, it always will be.”
“It is essential that voters understand the critical need for this levy,” Guillozet said. “In addition to the parks, the repaving of streets, public safety services, and virtually every facet of city services will be impacted in a positive way with the passage of the levy, and in a negative way if the voters do not pass the levy. I want the city in which my wife and I make our home to continue to move forward. We’ve made some tremendous strides in the past couple of years, and we need to have the financial resources to continue moving in a forward direction.”