Members of the Village of Sunbury Parks & Safety Committee plan to hold an open house beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, on the second floor of Sunbury Town Hall.
The open house will be held to share with members of the public the results of Sunbury’s recent Parks and Recreation Survey.
In addition to recreation facilities maintained by the Big Walnut Local School District and used by area residents, Sunbury is home to Freedom Park, JR Smith Park, Rosecrans Park, Old Orchard Park, Evening Street Park, Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial Park, Historic Sunbury Village Square, Sunbury Memorial Park, and two up-ground reservoirs slated for future park development.
In addition to families from the greater Big Walnut area using village parks and Big Walnut schools facilities for relaxation and recreation, a host of area youth athletic organizations draw park users from around eastern Delaware County for both practice sessions and league play, including Little League Baseball and Big Walnut Youth Athletic Association Football and Cheerleading.
Add to the above, the Anthony Kinslow Disc Golf Course at Freedom Park draws disc golf enthusiasts from around central Ohio and beyond; and the village’s two reservoirs are home to several ODNR-sponsored fishing derbies each year.
During the Wednesday, March 29, Sunbury Village Council meeting, Parks Committee members Scott Weatherby and Joe Gochenour gave an overview of the survey’s results. Weatherby said the survey, launched in October and closed in early December, draw 657 responses from Sunbury residents, Big Walnut community members, and members of neighboring communities.
Asked where they spend most of their recreation time, 40 percent of survey respondents said at Big Walnut schools, 29 percent said at other municipalities, compared to only 16 percent who said they use Village of Sunbury parks for recreation purposes.
Most survey respondents, 66 percent, said they would like the village to build a swimming pool or splash pad, 57 percent said they would use expanded walking and bike paths, 51 percent asked for a community center, and 44 percent said they would use more playground equipment.
The telling number was a rating of Sunbury’s recreational opportunities – 41.55 percent said Fair, 30.59 percent said Poor, 20.7 percent said Adequate, only 1.22 percent said Excellent.
During last Wednesday’s village council meeting, Weatherby said from a parks standpoint the village is behind where it should be as a rapidly-growing community. He said hiring an outside planner would help create a Parks and Recreation Master Plan that covers the next five-to-10 years of village parks development.
“We need to hit the ground now to make sure we’re up and running in two or three years,” Weatherby said. “Sharing the survey results with the public will open a dialog and help us prioritize our needs before we engage with an outside planner.”
Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield said the recreation needs of Sunbury residents, and especially its children, has shifted from when he grew up in the village.
“I don’t want to get tied up in a parks master plan that paralyzes us,” Hatfield said. “Looking five to 10 years out is good, but we need to look at things we can do today. You’ve got to do a little bit every year.”
Weatherby agreed that there are current needs.
“Going to JR Smith Park is depressing,” Weatherby said. “The basketball hoops are bent, there’s no nets, and that’s a reflection on the Parks Committee. JR Smith Park has so much potential. But you can’t just put up hoops and nets and fix the park. We need to get out in front of this for our community.”
Gochenour had his own perspective on the need for a long-term parks master plan.
“One of the most important issues we’ve got going for us in parks is land acquisition,” Gochenour said. “We’re paralyzed in parks right now.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.