Lookout Park: Future needs

On any given day, Lookout Park in Marietta might be the scene of a rigorous tennis match or a group of youth playing basketball, a resident walking a dog or a family reunion in the park’s community center.

“It gets used,” said Marietta resident Seth Bertram, 38, who was playing tennis in the park Tuesday afternoon. “I bring my kids up while I’m playing tennis and they play on the playground.”

But the park certainly is not used as much as it could be, noted Marietta City Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward.

The park falls in Vukovic’s ward and there are a lot of things Vukovic and several park-goers would like to see done to the park to make it more welcoming to community members.

Currently there are very few options for shade, noted Vukovic.

“One of the things that park really needs is a pavilion,” he said.

Unlike many city parks, there are very few trees, said Marietta public facilities superintendent Tom Kunz.

“There’s too much open space up there. It doesn’t have the variety of trees that our other parks have,” he said.

Recently, the city was able to plant a handful of trees in the park thanks to money donated by the Marietta Area Community Tennis Association, said Kunz.

MACTA president Steve Ellis said more trees would not only help the park feel more welcoming, but it would reduce the amount of mowing needed in the park and would shield those at the site from strong winds that the elevated park sometimes experiences.

“MACTA would like to work with more groups or individuals that would like do beautify the park. Maybe we could do something like where someone donates a tree and gets a plaque marking it,” he suggested.

MACTA has also been instrumental in the upkeep of a pair of double-court tennis courts at the park, added Vukovic.

Tennis association volunteers have already put more than 100 hours of labor into cleaning, painting and upgrading the tennis courts for this summer, said Ellis.

The group has also provided a lot of the benches and other structures at the park. Recently the group purchased two umbrellas at a cost of $200 for tables inside one of the courts, said Ellis.

But what members of MACTA are really hoping for is the funding to resurface the tennis courts.

“The courts up there, although they’re in playable condition, they look like jigsaw puzzle,” said Ellis.

The tennis association and the city recently applied for a grant that would resurface one of the two courts and provide handicapped accessible parking and sidewalks at the park, he said.

The NatureWorks Grant is administered through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and would provide $31,283 to cover the full cost of the project, said Marietta development director Andy Coleman.

The city should find out if it will be awarded the grant in October, he added.

Some work has been recently completed at the park, said Kunz. In addition to the new trees, the playground recently received new mulch and the bathrooms were recently upgraded, he said.

But bigger projects take bigger funding and that is one of the biggest hurdles Lookout Park faces, said Vukovic.

The city sets aside funding for maintenance on all city properties, such as mowing and emergency projects, he said. However, there is no money for larger projects, lamented Vukovic.

Many other city parks, such as Buckeye, Indian Acres, East Muskingum and West Muskingum, are eligible for funding through the Community Development Block Grant, said Coleman. Lookout Park is not in a low to moderate income area and is therefore only eligible for CDBG funds that would pay for handicapped accessible upgrades.

CDBG money has been responsible for many of the upgrades at other parks in recent years, such as new playground equipment, said Vukovic.

The playground at Lookout Park is antiquated and due to be replaced, he said, but the funding for that would likely have to come from the city’s recreation fund.

“Quite honestly the recreation fund is not healthy enough to handle that,” Vukovic said.

Much of the recreation fund comes from admission to the Marietta Aquatic Center, which had a below average month of attendance in June, he said.

Also on the to-do list for the park is adding asphalt grindings to the 0.3-mile walking path that encircles the park and installing a water fountain in the tennis courts, said Vukovic.

Again, both projects require money that is hard to find, he said.

“We have an awful lot of competing demands for the money the city has,” he said.

Marietta resident Dennis Bell, 64, said he thinks the city’s parks are a solid investment.

“I think upkeeping these parks pays for itself health wise. If you have parks where the people want to come and play and exercise, you have healthier citizens,” said Bell, who was also playing tennis at Lookout Park Tuesday afternoon.

A city’s parks are also an important reflection on the city itself, added fellow tennis player Mike Miller, 59, of Marietta.

“With the tennis association we go to a lot of other parks and you can always tell by a park the amount of care a community puts into it,” said Miller.

There are future plans to upgrade the playground and basketball court at the park, said Coleman, but those plans are only in the discussion phase and would rely on future NatureWorks Grants, which are made available yearly.