SIDNEY — Neighbors from the Heritage Manor subdivision filed a petition with the parks department, asking the Recreation Board and City Council to consider providing a park for their neighborhood. Due to the closing of Peerless Park years ago, this area of Sidney did not have a nearby place for recreation.
“In February of 2020, city council approved the purchase of two parcels of land in the Heritage Manor neighborhood (next to the city’s Service Center) and with the help of a CDBG grant, the development of a new park began,” said Duane Gaier, city of Sidney Parks and Recreation director. “This past summer parks staff constructed a 16-foot by 20-foot shelter in the center of the two lots. This will not only provide a location for picnics for the families that utilize the park, but will also be the location for the city recreation department’s Summer Food Program for this part of the city. In addition, a drinking fountain was installed and play equipment was constructed by parks staff. Official dedication of this much-needed park will be in the spring of 2021.”
Gaier’s report continues:
The Zenas King, Bow String Bridge located in Tawawa Park, was dedicated on Oct. 17, 2020, in front of a large crowd and many dignitaries. This historic bridge was constructed back in 1879, over Loramie Creek on what is now known at state Route 66. After its sister span was damaged in the 1913 Flood, this section was moved to private property on the west side of the Shelby County, until it was lifted from its span over a drainage ditch to be rehabbed and installed in its current location in Tawawa Park. Its new home now connects two peninsulas on Amos Lake, linking Benjamin Trail to the other paths in the park. In addition to the Ross Covered Bridge, this bridge is another great location for family, graduation, wedding, prom and many other photo opportunities. More importantly, the bridge is a piece of Ohio and Shelby County history preserved in a public park.
There were many reductions in the department this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tawawa Park’s shelter reservations were almost 330 in 2020, down from over 600 in 2019. There were over 800 baseball and softball games at Harmon, Flanagan and Custenborder in 2019 but less than 400 games in 2020. Because of COVID concerns, a popular summer destination for many children and adults, the Sidney Water Park, did not open due to staffing issues. Recreation programs went from 1,200 kids participating in the summer fun in 2019 to zero programs in 2020. All of these decreases are counterintuitive for a recreation department, as parks and recreation staff want to provide safe, passive and active recreation for everyone in the community. Recreation department staff is currently working to open the water park this summer and putting together summer recreation programs in anticipation that this summer will be back to normal.
There were 7,889 free lunches served to anyone 18 years of age or under at 12 different sites in Sidney. A grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture allowed for food, prepared by Wilson Health, to be picked up by recreation staff and delivered to the different locations. On Fridays, to go along with the daily, lunchtime meals, the kids were given non-perishable food items, contained in a zip lock bag, to get them through the weekend. The 2,268 backpack meals were entirely funded thanks to donations from individuals, organizations and businesses in the community.
Capital projects to begin in 2021 include: replacement of a play structure at Custenborder Fields, a dog park, a pedestrian footbridge over the millrace in Tawawa Park and the extension of the Canal Feeder Trail to Kuther Road.