School district returns East Park to Marion
A city park given to Marion school district in May 2021 will revert to city ownership Jan. 1.
East Park, west of the Sports and Aquatic Center, was accepted back Monday by city council members after the school district sent the city a letter saying it was canceling its $1, 40-year lease on the park.
The park lease was part of a deal when the school district took over the city’s recreation program in 2021. Ownership and operation of Marion’s softball and baseball complex went from the city to the school district when youth sports programs transferred to the district. The park was transferred on a lease.
Superintendent Justin Wasmuth said he didn’t know why the park was part of the deal.
“We really don’t use it for the recreation program now and with the cost to improve it, we just thought it was best to give it back to the city,” Wasmuth said.
Transfer of the park complies with the lease requirement, which requires only 30 days’ notice.
The city spent $15,000 and obtained $150,000 in grant money 10 years ago to construct lighted handball and racquetball courts at what had been a seldom used tennis and skate park.
“I just think if there’s a long-term plan for that park, the city leading it would be beneficial,” Wasmuth said.
The district’s athletic program does not include tennis. It could be taught by the recreation district or in a lifetime fitness program of the physical education classes, if the teacher chooses.
“I think it’s a great park,” he said. “We just can’t put a priority on it right now,” he said.
School board members decided in a special meeting last week to return the park.
At the time the park was transferred to the district, Mayor David Mayfield said the district had requested the park.
With the transfer of Marion recreation programs, the city eliminated its recreation budget but retained oversight of programs such as Art in the Park, Chingawassa Days, holiday events, and similar celebrations were retained by the city.
City employee Margo Yates, formerly charged with oversight of the city recreation program and parks, was given new duties.
The recreation district now imposes an additional 1 mill tax rate on all property owners in the school district. City tax rates were not reduced in response.