NORTH CANTON  More features and large improvements are in the works for several of North Canton’s parks.

The $6 million project will bring improvements to Bitzer Park, Dogwood Park and a creation of a recreation and performance area near the Hoover Community Recreation Complex.

The city is waiting to hear back from the state on how much in grant funding it will get to put towards the project. North Canton asked for 33 percent from the state and the city has committed to funding 10 percent of the project. In addition, the city hopes to fund 57 percent of the project through fundraising and private donations.

Director of Administration Patrick DeOrio said North Canton’s parks are simply outdated by 60 to 70 years and the idea of neighborhood parks has gone away. DeOrio said the city isn’t abandoning what it has, but enhancing the offerings.

Bitzer Park

The downtown park will soon see upgrades to make it more attractive.

Plans call for a performance stage, which will allow for the city to coordinate events downtown, and the library will be able to use it for story time. Neighboring property the North Canton YMCA could also utilize the space.

The park is home to several special events each year and the city’s veterans memorial.

Improvements for Bitzer Park are slated at $100,000.

Dogwood Park

Dogwood Park will see some large improvement to accommodate any visitor. The pavilion is a popular spot and is used often throughout the year. When the pavilion is used, parking is usually full, so it will be increased from 25 sports to 87. 

Children will also see a large enhancement as a new 22,000 square-foot playground will be constructed. The existing playground would be removed and the new playground will feature several different kinds of play structures.

DeOrio said the new playground will be one of the largest in the area and will be similar to Heritage Hill Playground in Boettler Park in Green.

DeOrio said there will be some history included in the playground as it will be designed like a train depot and there may be plans for a story walk to teach children about the history. The history dates back to when children of Hoover Company employees evacuated to North Canton during World War II.

Additional improvements to the park include constructing an outdoor performance space, adding restrooms and making connections with Stark Park Trails.

Recently, Akron Children’s Hospital announced they will give $250,000 to the city to help construct the performing arts building, which is included in the upgrades for the park.

Dogwood improvements are expected to be around $1 million.

Hoover Recreation Complex

Plans call to expand the complex to help allow little league teams to expand to host tournaments. Parking will be expanded from 237 spaces to 370 spaces. The parking lot will also be improved so buses can pull in and turn around.

DeOrio said these enhancements will allow for the complex to be destination location. There will also be the addition of cultural arts display, which will serve as a dual-purpose to display items from the North Canton City Schools and Walsh University.

Other improvements call for archways, brick walls, restrooms, a new pavilion and amphitheater. The amphitheater is expected to seat 354 people.

There will also be a right lane created on Maple Street for cars turning right out of the complex because DeOrio said 90 percent of people leaving the complex are turning right.

Construction is expected to take a year. Total cost for the recreation complex improvements will be about $5 million.

Timeline

DeOrio said the city expects to hear back from the state in March about how much funding the city will receive. Once the city knows how much they will receive, the city can determine which projects to work on.

Work is expected to begin on Bitzer Park possibly in May, which could have the improvements done in time for the Main Street Festival. DeOrio said these improvements will be a big plus for the festival.

The city will be looking for naming rights for people that want to name shelters and benches.

North Canton Mayor David Held said he likes all of the projects and said having strong parks is key to economic development in a city. He would like to see work get underway on all of the projects as soon as possible.

Community meetings are expected to be held to allow residents to provide input.