City of Niles hopes new grant project with YSU will deter vandals from upgraded parks

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The city has contracted with YSU for grant writing and research services at a cost of $10,000

Vandalism at Stevens Park in Niles, Ohio

NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – City officials in Niles are teaming up with Youngstown State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Studies to seek grant funding in order to take the next step in improving the city’s parks.

Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz says the city has contracted with YSU for grant writing and research services at a cost of $10,000.

Mientkiewicz says now that the city is out of fiscal emergency, he wants to focus on addressing the neglect in their parks, and YSU is a great partner to help with that.

“YSU is a professional organization. It’s an outside resource where this department and students working in this department… that’s what they specialize in, that’s what they’re being educated in, that’s what they’re being trained in. We hope to utilize them to bring in extra revenue within the city,” he said.

The mayor says all of the parks in the city will be upgraded as needed, but the main focus is on Stevens Park because of its central location.

The proposal is to redo the four tennis courts at Stevens Park into a multi-sports facility.

They want to replace and repair the fencing around the courts, upgrade toled lights, remove or trim branches from trees over the courts for safety and turn one of the tennis courts into a pickleball court and another into a basketball court.

Unfortunately, Stevens Park has fallen victim to multiple instances of vandalism, the most recent was this past Wednesday.

Both Mientkiewicz and Niles Parks Department Director Bob Burke say the park is worth the time and energy.

“I just feel sad. It’s disappointing that somebody would tear up property that doesn’t belong to them,” Burke said.

On Wednesday, the restrooms and concession stand at Stevens Park were vandalized and spray painted.

“We already have some footage of the young people that were in the park and we’re hoping to question them and see if they saw something,” Burke said.

The Niles Police Department released surveillance video of the suspects from Wednesday’s incident.

“You can see where we painted at one time, somebody did graffiti, so we painted something but then they did this again the other night,” Burke said.

Burke says part of the grant money they are hoping to get through the YSU partnership will go toward more security.

“Our goal is to add the surveillance cameras, add the lighting because if it’s visibly seen by people, most likely, people won’t go in there and vandalize stuff,” he said.

Mientkiewicz and park-goers, like Patricia Castle, are on the same page.

“We would want to provide some surveillance to try to deter people from doing this and if we do catch them, we’re going to be heavy on them,” Mientkiewicz said.

“They need more lighting and they need more surveillance,” Castle said.

On top of the increased security, Burke wants to upgrade the playground equipment, to make it more modern and wheelchair accessible.

“It’s becoming an outdated piece of equipment so we’re hoping that upgrading and modernizing this equipment will allow us to have more people come visit our park,” Burke said.

Plus, Burke says he’ll keep it clean for residents no matter what.

“To get this graffiti off there’s a chemical called graffiti remover so I’m purchasing it and we’re just going to have to scrub it, you know, elbow grease,” he said.

For both Burke and Mientkiewicz, these upgrades are about a safe, clean and fun place for the community they say deserves it.

“We partner with our neighbors, our residents and our school, and they love to have a beautiful park to participate in,” Burke said.

And with the help of this grant, they will.

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