Hancock Park District board on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for development of a gathering area at Aeraland Recreation Area, located off Washington Township 243 north of Arcadia.

But while the board gave approval for most of the plan’s design, including preparation of the area for a playground, the three-member board said the estimated $112,000 cost for the playground — nearly half the total project estimate — needed further investigation.

Board Chairman Gary Hirschfeld said he wondered how much use the proposed play area would get. The materials are estimated at $53,000, the ground material $29,000 and the remainder is for installation. Park District Director Gary Pruitt said the cost is about the same for other playground materials.

Besides the playground, board members Hirschfeld, Ed Ingold and Scott Younger voiced support for the remainder of the plan.

The proposed 38-foot by 38-foot play area would include glass fiber-reinforced concrete “boulders,” designed for 5-12 year olds, on a rubber base.

Younger suggested checking with individuals who use the recreation area now to get input on use of the climbing equipment.

Pruitt said he had visited the area and developed the plan to bring to the board.

“The playground is the wild card in all this,” he said.

According to Pruitt, other plans for the recreation area include ground restoration and turf installation where a swimming pool was previously filled in, a waterless restroom building to match existing structures, six picnic tables at the gathering area and six picnic tables at the existing shelter, trash receptacles and recycle centers.

The existing buildings will be upgraded and could be used for programs, gatherings and small special events such as weddings, birthday parties and family reunions.

The existing wood pergola would be retained.

Cost for all the work, including the playground, is estimated at $250,000, Pruitt said. Besides the playground, savings could be realized by not installing the restroom building, estimated at $50,000. The alternative would be to continue utilizing portable toilets at the park and paying a monthly fee for maintenance service.

Proposed building improvements, according to the report, would include metal roofs, paint, epoxy floors, doors and locks, lights, exit lights, electrical upgrades and landscaping, according to the report.

The park district acquired the park from the Washington Township trustees in 2013. A swimming pool was filled with dirt and seeded with grass, two barns were removed, and a nature trail was developed, including a trail through the woods and overlooking the South Branch of the Portage River and a trail through the grassland.

Soccer fields in the park are leased to Arcadia Soccer Club, which has exclusive use and maintains the fields.

The main parking lot was paved and striped in 2016, part of the long-range plans for the park.

Separately, the board approved a resolution to allocate $29,240 for design work of the Big Oaks Activity Area parking lot paving and striping project. Construction bids would be sought after design completion and work would be scheduled for next spring or summer.

The cost includes design, property surveying and geothermal engineering. A majority of the cost, $23,500, is for RCM Architects to complete the design.

Also, more than 20,000 copies of the Blanchard River Water Trail map, as designated by the state, have been received at the park district office. The nearly 37-mile route goes from near Mount Blanchard to west of Findlay.

Maurer: 419-427-8420
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