If cities want to “elevate their perceptions,” they must invest in their parks, said David Pearce, treasurer of the Ohio Balloon Challenge in Middletown.
That’s exactly what three local organizations and the city of Middletown accomplished recently when a 41,000-square foot parking area at Smith Park was repaved. Light Up Middletown, the holiday drive-through lights display; the Ohio Balloon Challenge, a summer hot air balloon competition; and Middletown Youth Soccer Association each donated $10,000 to purchase the material needed to repair the lot centrally located in the park, Pearce said.
He said the city’s street maintenance division used its labor and machinery to complete the project.
Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins thanked the three groups for their “generous donation of funds” to help repave the parking area.
“It is because of organizations like this that Middletown continues to thrive as a great place to live, work, and grow, transitioning from our bright past to our brighter future,” Adkins said.
The parking lot is located near the electrical service boxes and is imperative to the success of the three major events, which all draw thousands to the city, Pearce said. He said the parking area was “bruised” and showed its age.
“That park is so critical to this community,” Pearce said. “Such a prized asset for this community. We need to take the responsibility to maintain it. This was an opportunity to reinvest.”
When Pearce approached leaders of the two other organizations, he said it took about “two minutes” to convince them to support the park improvements. The lot is used by food vendors during the Ohio Challenge as well as soccer parents and is a main thoroughfare during Light Up Middletown, he said.
“We can’t have them have a bad experience,” he said of park visitors. “It has to be useful and functional.”
He called Smith Park, the city’s largest park, “an economic engine” for the city. He said whenever a large event is planned, fast-food restaurants along Verity Parkway make sure they have enough inventory and staff to handle the increased demand.
Pearce said the groups may look at making improvements to other parking and driving areas in the park. He said those projects may be five years out.
For Middletown to continue to grow and prosper, Pearce said it needs to invest in the parks it decides are the most important. He’d like to see capital funds set aside for park improvements.
“We have to have nice, quality parks,” he said. “We need to commit to a plan and make our parks a priority.”