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County anticipates ‘virtual welcome center’ for parks

1/31/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Avid hikers and bikers in Summit County may soon have one online source where they can find trail maps and more from local park sites.

Summit County Council, during its Jan. 28 meeting, adopted a resolution that will allow the county to proceed with an opportunity for the “virtual welcome center” through Code for America and its fellowship program.

The project will result in an interactive, web-based home for information on the bike, hike and water trails in the county, according to the legislation.

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry, said the Akron area is one of 10 in the nation selected for the project, which, according to its website, unites “techies” with government to help improve communities.

Fellows who will come to Akron to work on the project “are from the likes of Yahoo, Google and Apple,” said Patrick Bravo, deputy director of Economic Development.

Council approval and Pry’s signature will allow the project to go to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for final approval, Dodson said. Once that happens, the county expects three fellows to arrive in the area for about a month to set up the site and work with partners such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Metro Parks, Serving Summit County and the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.

The project will cost about $360,000, with the bulk of the funding — $250,000 — coming from the Knight Foundation, Dodson said. The county will put $25,000 toward the effort, and $85,000 is expected from the park partners.

Council members were excited about the potential of the project.

“This is a wonderful thing to be able to bring to the community,” said Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro (D-at large), who also thanked the Knight Foundation for its involvement.

Dodson said details of what the fellows will create are not yet available, but it’s likely the project will result in a smartphone application that users can access while out in the parks, as well as a website that will provide information on trails and programs in the parks.

Councilwoman Tamela Lee (D-District 5) asked if the project will be promoted, and Dodson said there would be that component once the project gets the go-ahead from the Knight Foundation.

In other business, Council adopted on first reading a resolution regarding improvements to Ghent and North Cleveland-Massillon roads in Bath Township. The county will execute a Local Public Agency agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation for the $1 million project, which will see improvements to Ghent Road from Sourek Road to North Cleveland-Massillon Road, and North Cleveland-Massillon Road from state Route 18 to Springside Drive, according to Heidi Swindell, of the Engineer’s Office.

She added that Council would see legislation in the future regarding contracts for the work, of which the county’s share will be about $237,000.

Also during the meeting, Council adopted resolutions allowing grants of $75,000 to the Development Finance Authority of Summit County; $171,900 to the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District; and $51,000 for the Summit County Historical Society.

Council also approved a resolution allowing a lease with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-District 13) for office space at the county’s site at 1030 Tallmadge Ave. at a cost of $1 a month.

Council also heard first reading of a resolution regarding a lease agreement for space at the county’s Ohio Building for the Community Hall Foundation, which is the nonprofit that operates the Akron Civic Theatre.

The five-year lease is proposed to cost the Civic $1 a year and would provide about 1,000 square feet of office space for the organization, according to the resolution.

In addition, Council conducted a public hearing on the proposed vacation of Sollman Road in Copley. No one spoke against the vacation.

Council will next meet Feb. 4 at 4:30 p.m. for committee meetings in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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