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Published: Monday, 7/28/2008

Public invited to refine park site near downtown Toledo

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A planned park along the Maumee River just south of downtown Toledo could have a network of trails, designated fishing spots, and even a pavilion for watching the boats and trains that pass by.

Or it could have none of those, remaining little more than a riverfront woodlot through which visitors could stroll at certain times.

How intensely the so-called Middlegrounds Metropark should be improved to provide recreational access is a question the Toledo Area Metroparks District is referring to the public after developing three basic concepts based on comments received during meetings last winter.

Park officials will lead public tours of the 28-acre site between 4 and 6 p.m. tomorrow, followed by an open house and a 6 p.m. presentation in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza at the nearby Toledo train station. Visitors will be offered questionnaires about their preferences for the park s development.

Scott Carpenter, a metroparks spokesman, said that while the development options have been divided into three scenarios, they are not mutually exclusive.

There are many combinations of the various elements that could be included, depending on public feedback, he said.

We re going to take what people like the best and what they like the least and put something together, Mr. Carpenter said.

The parks district hopes to have a tentative plan developed by winter, and have Middlegrounds Metropark ready for use by 2010.

Comments received during earlier hearings stressed maintaining river views and providing fishing access, the spokesman said.

Freighters serving grain elevators and other upstream docks pass by the site, and it also will offer views of a busy Norfolk Southern Railway bridge that crosses the Maumee east of the train station.

The proposed park runs along the riverfront from beneath the Anthony Wayne Bridge to a jagged boundary with Norfolk

Southern property downstream.

Mr. Carpenter said part of the park s development will depend on the outcome of negotiations with the railroad, which retained half-interest in 9.5 acres along the riverfront when the parks district paid $1.2 million in federal funds to acquire the property.

Once we have a final concept, we will talk to the railroad, Mr. Carpenter said, noting that buying out the company s remaining interest will be one of the possibilities.

At one time, the park site essentially was a dumping ground at the edge of railroad yards that sprawled on the east side of the train station.

Since buying the site, the parks district has spent $433,770 hauling away debris, including 2,540 tons of stone, 3,200 tons of asphalt, 1,900 tons of concrete, 1,000 tons of dirt, and 150 tons of old railroad ties.

An additional 805 tons of waste wood was processed into firewood, wood chips, and mulch.

Public access to the site will be from the north end, and plans include fences to keep visitors from wandering onto railroad property, Mr. Carpenter said.

The park tours tomorrow will convene at the train station, from which visitors will be transported a short distance to the site. Parking at the train station is free.

Contact David Patch at:dpatch@theblade.comor 419-724-6094.



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