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Editorial: New focus can help develop Rotary Park

Feb. 14, 2013 @ 12:19 AM

Huntington's Rotary Park is a wonderful green-space resource with a lot of untapped potential.

That is why it is good to hear the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District has some fresh ideas to add more features and more visitors.

It takes an aerial view to really appreciate the scope of the park, located on the eastern end of the city between U.S. 60 and the Walnut Hills neighborhood. It covers 135 acres -- almost twice the size of Ritter Park -- and includes large areas of wooded trails as well as ball fields, playgrounds, picnic shelters and disc golf courses.

That is a lot to keep up with, and the Park District has not always had the resources to develop the park. With some of its isolated areas, the park also has gained a long-running reputation as a "pick up" spot for gay men. That image may be somewhat undeserved, but park officials recognize it is one of the factors that keeps some visitors away.

Police have pledged to step up patrols in the park, but ultimately, the best solution is more activities that bring more people into the park. In a recent interview with The Herald-Dispatch, Park Board Executive Director Kevin Brady detailed two new works in progress.

Construction will begin this spring on a new $60,000 playground, thanks to contributions from the Rotary Club of Huntington, the Huntington Foundation and Park Board. It will replace an older playground that is deteriorating.

A grant will help restore 1.2 miles of paved trails, and the Park District is discussing ways to link Rotary Park to the expansive Paul Ambrose Trail for Health system.

Two other projects also are being considered:

Park officials are working with local disc golfers to design a third course in Rotary Park, and the volunteers would do most of the work.

Officials also are exploring the possibility of building a course for an emerging form of bicycle racing called "cyclo-cross." Racers typically do multiple laps on a fixed course that includes wooded trails, steep hills and sometimes obstacles that require riders to dismount and carry their bikes. A recent event in Louisville drew 10,000 spectators.

Each of these efforts is a step in the right direction for Rotary Park and helps develop an important recreation asset for the Tri-State.

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