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Park study suggests creation of board

Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic Megan Brown and DeAsia Brown of Warren get some exercise doing laps around Perkins Park Wednesday morning.

WARREN — A study of the city’s nine parks suggests creation of a park board to manage them, establish partnerships, develop funding and plan for their future may be a way to stabilize them.

The yearlong study by the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership involved a physical inventory of all equipment in the city’s nine parks. The parks are AmVets, Burbank, Circle, Deemer, North End, Packard, Perkins, Quinby and Southwest. Interfaith Park, a recreational space on the city’s southeast side, is privately owned, so was not included in the survey.

The establishment of a park board is one suggestion that also was discussed in a 2003-2004 plan done by an ad hoc committee of city council, according to the report. That report’s recommendations were not implemented fully because of the effects of the 2008 housing market crash and foreclosure crisis.

“We are not saying with this report that the city is wrong in how the parks are being managed,” Matt Martin, executive director of TNP, said. “This is a survey of the parks, examining what’s in them and how they are being used by residents. We have surveyed more than 3,000 residents, and this includes some of their views.”

Martin emphasized TNP is not interested in taking over the management of the parks.

“Our goal is to work with the city to make the parks valuable assets to the city,” Martin said. “We want to work with the city in finding ways to continue making investments for the parks.”

He emphasized that over the last several years, TNP helped raise more than $100,000 to invest in the improvement of Quinby Park. It also has been working to find funds for the continued improvement of Burbank Park.

“We do expect within the next five to 10 years to bring a lot of value to the park system,” Martin said.

Mayor Doug Franklin is open to the idea of considering establishment of a parks commission, but right now he is more focused on decommissioning some existing parks, such as Southwest Park.

“We are looking to reduce the number of parks in the city,” Franklin said. “I do believe having a parks commission is something worth of discussion.”

In the meantime, Franklin said the city already has completed one recommendation from an early draft of the report by adding the parks to the city website.

“We also established a systematic approach to cleaning the restrooms in the parks,” Franklin said. “We are working with the Nature’s Conservancy to make some improvements. Our work is ongoing.”

The TNP study was done using two $25,000 grants provided by the Trumbull Memorial Health Foundation and the William Swanston Charitable Fund.

The findings of the ’03-’04 committee report served to inform TNP’s report, particularly its recommendations to develop a coherent governance structure specific to Warren’s park system, improve and streamline maintenance, and deploy government funding more equitably across the system.

One suggestion is the creation of a permanent board of park commissioners or park recreation board and the employment of a park superintendent. The superintendent would be able to develop a plan for maintenance needs, establish a parks budget and pursue funding and partnership opportunities.

High priorities include a budget, maintenance standards for infrastructure, development of park security in partnership with the Warren Police Department and the evaluation of stormwater and flooding concerns.

“We recognized, particularly with many of the parks assets being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and the tough economic times the city is likely to face, this may not be the time to implement these suggestions,” Martin said. “These are to be considered over the long haul.”

The findings of the survey include an overview of the park locations and the impacts on the neighborhoods. It shows that many of the city’s parks are located in low- to middle-class neighborhoods:

• Three of the city’s parks, Southwest, AmVets and Perkins, are located in areas with the city’s poorest populations. Between 46 and 63 percent of those living in these areas poor, according to the report. Of those living near Deemer, Quinby, Packard, and North End parks, between 29 and 46 percent are poor. Circle Park, located on the city’s southeast side, and Burbank Park, located on the city’s northeast side, are located in areas where only 15.8 to 21.5 percent are identified as poor.

• Four of the parks — Southwest, Quinby, Deemer and Burbank — are located in neighborhoods with populations that are largely racial minorities, ranging from 34 to 64 percent. AmVets, Perkins, Packard and North End parks, as well as Courthouse Square, are in areas with that have populations that are between 21 to 33 percent minority. Only Circle Park is located in an area that has a population with 5 to 8 percent being racial minorities.

• Between 19 and 22 percent of the people living near Southwest, AmVets and Perkins, as well as Courthouse Square, do not have cars. Between 12 and 18 percent of the people living near Quinby, Deemer, Packard and North End parks do not have cars. Burbank and Circle Parks have populations in which only 5 and 7 percent do not have access to transportation.

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