If, three years ago, when Tom Roskos took over running the day-to-day operations of Buhl Park in Hermitage, you would have told him that the park will have upgraded the tennis center, reopened the driving range, opened a dog park and added playgrounds in that time, Roskos would have said, “No way.”
Or, as Roskos put it, “Wow.”
“It’s amazing to me how fast three years go,” Roskos, the park’s executive director, said Jan. 24 at the park’s annual State of the Park public forum.
“It’s amazing for me to drive around the park and see how far it’s come,” he said.
Just last year, the park built an outdoor classroom, “Sandy’s Place”; an inclusive playground; and a climbing wall and sun sails at the pool; installed bluebird boxes; and instituted what could become another signature event, a half-marathon and 5K race, in partnership with the Buhl Community Recreation Center, Sharon.
This year, the park plans to renovate the rest rooms at the Performing Arts Center, the outdoor stage, thanks to funds from Hermitage and Mercer County commissioners and Sharon Rotary Club; build hiking and mountain biking trails in the woods by Buhl Park Golf Course, and a kids biking skills course near Paws Place; create a new event, Kids Fest, which will be held April 22 – Earth Day – in Sandy’s Place; and continue raising money to build Pickle Ball courts, an effort that is half way to its $200,000 fundraising goal.
“We look forward to 2018,” Roskos said.
And the future, said Gary Hinkson, chairman of Buhl Park Corp., which manages the park for the Buhl Trustees.
“We want to maintain it so it can move forward into the future,” he said, and so the park reflects the values and needs of the community.
“It is important to us to make sure we’re relevant to the community,” Hinkson said.
The park, which now includes Trumbull and Mahoning counties in its service area and has a Brookfield resident, Paul O’Brien, serving on its board, had 500,000 users last year, Roskos said.
Although the park is free to use, freedom isn’t cheap. The park carries a $1.2 million budget each year, but only $500,000 comes from the endowment Frank Buhl set up when he created the park more than 100 years ago, Hinkson said.
The park’s upgrades and new facilities have largely been paid for by donors and grants.
While the trustees are working to build the endowment with hopes that it will cover the budget, that is a long-term goal, Hinkson said. For the foreseeable future, the park will rely on donations, event proceeds, fundraisers and facility rentals to make up the shortfall.
“We rely on the support of the community,” Hinkson said.