Greene County is moving forward with plans to give the public access to a restricted park which could open as early as late spring, according to officials.
“It’s the best of both worlds and those are usually the best decisions,” said Greene County Commissioner Bob Glaser.
Hobson Freedom Park, a 91-acre facility with 14 athletic fields in Beavercreek Twp. on Trebein Road, has been primarily used for soccer tournaments since it opened in 2010. These events have boosted the regional economy by an estimated $6.7 million, according to Greene County Convention and Visitors Bureau data.
Public access was included in plans for the park before it opened, however, the county has had concerns about protecting the tournament quality athletic fields, according to officials.
“I’m glad that we were able to come together and reach a consensus to make this a win-win for everybody in the community,”said Tom Koogler, a Greene County Commissioner.
In July, the Dayton Daily News reported some neighbors voiced opposition to the county park being closed to the public and complained about noise and traffic that comes with the soccer tournaments held there.
That same month, a group of residents submitted a list of recommendations concerning the park including developing the residential side of the park, installing a fence to protect the fields while alllowing residents access to the park and adding a pedestrian entrance to the facility, according to documents obtained by the Dayton Daily News.
Neighbors have alsoasked the county to build an additional road to exit the park because of heavy traffic during soccer tournaments. The county has paid a consultant $12,000 to look at the potential environmental and wetlands impact and is working with a local company to build the exit.
County commissioners recently instructed the Greene County Parks & Trails department to implement plans to add event signs, plants, a shelter and the fencing. These additions will cost the county about $77,000, according to county parks and trails data.
“There was a bit of optimism this week when we heard there’s a plan in place,” said Jim Nolan, a Fairborn resident who lives near the park. “We haven’t seen the plan and that’s why I say we’re skeptically optimistic.”
This fall, the county will plant different species of 4- to 6-feet tall native trees and shrubs near the entrance along Trebein Road and down part of the side of the park.
“Its kind of a sound barrier and aesthetics and populating the park with some natural vegetation,” said Chrisbell Bednar, the Greene County Parks & Trails director.
A large shelter that can hold about 100 people, similar to the one at Twin Towers Park in Yellow Springs, will be installed near the parking lot.
The department will also add picnic tables and a grill to be consistent with amenities at other county parks.
A 6-foot tall chain link fence will be installed on the east side of the parking lot and will run the full width of the park. The county also plans to add pedestrian gates and another vehicle entrance to the park.
“Once we get the fence in to protect the soccer fields we can start opening that up right away,” Koogler said.