KALIDA — ”Approximately $7,165,279 is available to local communities and non-profit organizations to preserve natural areas, protect streams, and create outdoor recreational opportunities,” reads a media release by the Ohio Public Works Commission from earlier this year. This grant money is available as part of OPWC’s Green Space Conservation Program.

In recent years, the amount has grown significantly because very few communities within the eight county district have pursued it (Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Logan, Mercer, Putnam, Shelby and Van Wert). One reason for this, as offered by Bill Rieman at this past Monday evening’s meeting of the Kalida Village Council, is that money must be used for passive activities. Meaning, you can’t build a baseball diamond with it.

However, you can build a walking path through a nature area you are already establishing. Which is exactly what the Kalida Park Board plans to do. As with most grants of this kind, matching funds from the community are required. “The 25 percent that we need to come up with can be cash, in-kind labor, in-kind equipment donations, and in-kind land donations.” Rieman explains during the meeting.

“You can see,” he continues, referencing a printed spreadsheet that had been shared with council members showing a breakout of what kind of support the Park Board hopes to receive, “The matching funds needed are $310,000. And, we’ve proposed some numbers right below that.”

The numbers Rieman speaks of are the hoped-for and all-but-expected contributions from local businesses, non-profits and individuals, including the village itself. During the meeting, he spoke at length on the different organizations that have provided support for the creation of 4 Seasons Park and related projects. And now, he was before council to discuss a new financial commitment from the village as well.

Though supportive in spirit, the council and Mayor paused on the amount being requested: $150,000.

“Have you ever thought about canvassing some of the other organizations in town for donations?” Mayor Al Gerdeman asks. “To maybe have some more organizations in the game, so to speak?” To this Gerdeman added suggestions of specific organizations, including the athletic boosters, the K of C Hall, and the Kalida Fish & Game Club.

“We’re certainly open,” Rieman responds “And, I’m sure you’ve probably seen it, but if you look at the donation board inside the metal building, in the meeting room, it’s pretty impressive. We have titanium level, which is $10,000 or more. We probably have 30 donors there. Then we have platinum level, which is $5,000, and we probably have 15 on that. We have the gold level, probably another 15 on there, which is $2,500. And then, we have a silver level with 15 or 20 there. That’s $1,000. We also, then, have a bronze level with $500. We probably have another 25 people there.”

“The other thing, there’s probably some businesses on those plaques?” asked Gerdeman.

“A lot of businesses,” answered Rieman. “A lot of them. And, that’s just in the metal building. We also have the pavilion over there where we have a plaque for all the donors that helped towards the pavilion. After everything, that was probably about a $500,000 project. So we have gotten tremendous, just tremendous support from the community. But, we’re certainly welcome to suggestions of anybody else we should contact that we have not contacted.”

“Well then, maybe have one final push,” Gerdeman offers. “Say, ‘This is the project to end all projects.’ From that point going forward, it’s probably finishing off the walking paths, and maybe a few odds and ends, but you’ve got to be reaching the tail end.”

“We’re trying to leverage this as much as we possibly can to get grant money so that we can get to that point,” responds Rieman.

“It’s a good opportunity to get a large chunk of grant money,” agrees Council President Jason Birkemeier. “We just have to think a little bit about the village’s current situation as well as projects and plans for the next couple of years.”

With this, Birkemeier is referring to the village’s plans to build a new town hall. The design is being finalized, and an estimate is expected before the end of the year. It it believed that the cost will be around a million dollars, plus more for needed work on nearby streets.

“That $150,000 chunk there represents a chunk that a lot of other communities can’t come up with,” adds Gerdeman. And, that’s why there’s a lot of money available. Because there aren’t communities like ours that can do what we’ve been doing. We’re pretty fortunate. But, as Jason mentioned, we have to watch our budget too. We’ve got what we think is an equally high priority of a project as a path to the parks.”

“I would just appreciate you trying to stump the bushes one more time, and see what you can do to reduce that cash commitment. That’s all I’m asking. If you can’t, you can’t. We’ll discuss it, and consider it.”