MOUNT VERNON — Mayor Matt Starr asked the community to provide suggestions for one of the oldest parks in the city on Wednesday.

Arch Park — once home to circuses and horseshoe tournaments — will soon undergo a transformation, and Starr is seeking input from west-end residents on their desired changes for the park.

Approximately 30 residents gathered at Arch Park to learn about city officials’ plans for the park and their side of the neighborhood, which includes Arch Park itself.

According to Starr, a plan must be developed before any action can be taken.

“We intend to redesign the park,” Starr said. “Your assistance will be greatly beneficial. What you see is a plan that is approximately 80% complete.”

Design documents were distributed among the residents, offering them ideas about the park’s potential appearance once constructed.

Starr encouraged residents to provide feedback on the designs or suggest other ideas for the park to the engineering department.

The decision to redesign the park arose from the news that anything located beneath AEP’s power lines must be removed due to an easement granted to them. This includes the pavilion and a couple of trees beneath the power lines.

Starr also mentioned that LED lights are planned for the park.

One west-end resident proposed the addition of a sidewalk and multi-use paths.

“I frequently see people pushing strollers and walking their children on the street, with someone suddenly appearing from around a blind corner,” the resident explained. “We need a sidewalk in this area.”

During the gathering, Starr also addressed the recent surge in city park vandalism, reaching unprecedented levels that city officials have never witnessed before.

Three juveniles involved in the vandalism have been apprehended and are being prosecuted, Starr added.

“Parks are a cornerstone of our city’s quality of life,” he said. “Everyone should be able to enjoy a park.”

The city is currently in the process of acquiring additional surveillance equipment for the parks. For instance, Hiawatha Water Park was recently vandalized.

“One of our staff members installed a trail camera, and with the images captured by the camera, we were able to identify the culprits,” Starr said.

The increase in vandalism has depleted the park’s budget for the year, according to Starr — diverting funds that were intended for other purposes, such as park design, to the replacement of damaged toilet stalls and urinals.

I am a Report For America corps member at Knox Pages. I report on public education in the county as well as workforce development. I first landed at Knox Pages in June 2022.

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