AUBURN — The city could really do something with the 9.8 acres of park space on either side of Chestnut Street, according to City Manager Glenn Aho.
"It's a big park, and it could be a really great recreation area — if we have the right idea," Aho said. "There has to be a way to give it a really community presence."
Aho said he's hoping residents will contact his office with suggestions for the parks, two under-used grassy areas south of Pettengill Park. The first area, about 7 acres, begins south of Dennison Street and continues to Chestnut Street. It contains an athletic field and a small building.
The second, about 2.8 acres, begins on the other side of Chestnut Street and continues to the Union Street bypass. It has three basketball courts and a tennis court.
Aho's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
The building on the first part was home to a Pathways Inc. child care center until a year ago, but has been vacant ever since.
"It needs a little TLC, but it's not bad," Aho said. He imagines a group could run a youth program out of the building, helping to manage and maintain the surrounding fields.
"I like the idea of a group like the Boys and Girls Club, for example," Aho said. "And it was a day care facility, so that's not out of the question.
The park was used by students at the Webster Intermediate School until it closed in 2006. Auburn Parks Superintendent Leroy Walker said the parks are used mostly now by neighbors for walking their dogs.
"The recreation department's football association didn't even want to use those fields this year because of the mess peoples dogs had made," Walker said.
Walker said the city could locate a dog park there, renting the building to a pet groomer or pet supply store.
"That would fit with the way people use it now, and maybe bring it back in a little bit more into the community," Walker said. "I think with a little fencing, we could have a nice little facility there."
Aho said he's open to any idea that would get the park used.
"Right now, I just want to see what people think should happen," Aho said.