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To the casual observer, the scrubby protrusion at the eastern tip of North Toledo's Bay View Park might not look like much.
But to 85-year-old Point Place resident Howard Pinkley, fondly referred to as this area's unofficial mayor, it's a dream waiting to take flight.
When Mr. Pinkley looks at the tangle of bushes and tousle of trees on this city-owned land, he sees a 24-room lodge, a first-class restaurant, and a row of nautically themed shops. Along the poison-ivy infested shoreline jutting into Maumee Bay, Mr. Pinkley sees a beach, a pier, a seaplane base, a Jet Express stop, and floating docks, all luring visitors from Toledo and farther afield to explore Lake Erie and local wildlife.
"Isn't this gorgeous?" he exclaimed on a recent baking-hot afternoon, sweeping his hand from the bushy overgrowth to the sun-dappled waterfront. "Can you imagine how long this has been sitting here with all these trees and everything and nothing being done? … This is going to be the place. Right here."
Mr. Pinkley is more than just a dreamer.
Over the past two years, the one-time president of the Point Place Business Association said he has amassed a group of more than 30 local residents, contractors, dock-builders, and other skilled professionals and has been meeting with the city's economic development team to move his vision for the peninsula forward.
He has put together drawings and plans for the site that he said are inspired by developments in the cities of San Diego and Dana Point in California.
The group has secured a $100,000 investment from the city to build a mile-long stone walkway through the woods of Bay View Park, skirting the area Mr. Pinkley hopes to see developed. The path is scheduled to be completed Aug. 17.
Toledo City Council has also pledged its support for the proposed site, which Mr. Pinkley calls the Nautical Village.
Many hurdles remain, however.
The most crucial step is finding investors willing to put forward the estimated $10 million needed to build the lodge, restaurant, stores, and other features. An additional $1 million would be needed to build a 50-foot-wide event hall called Casino Pier, which Mr. Pinkley wants constructed as a historical tribute to Toledo's first casino, which once occupied the space.
Toledo Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers said the city is working with Mr. Pinkley to attract investment for the site.
He said construction of the pathway is an attempt to entice private dollars for further development of the park's shoreline.
"The city is a facilitator; we like to invest money to begin projects and let the private sector follow behind," Mr. Crothers said.
"Anything that is on our riverfront is obviously a very attractive development opportunity. … This is up at really the mouth of the Maumee, where there's nature areas, boat launches, there's a lot in and around Point Place."
Councilman Lindsay Webb, whose district includes Point Place, said Mr. Pinkley's record of securing funding for improvements in the area makes her confident the Nautical Village concept will become reality.
Mr. Pinkley played a crucial role in obtaining a city-run senior center for the neighborhood and a new fire station, she said.
"He's one of the most tenacious people I know," Ms. Webb said. "Howard is a visionary for our community, and because this is Howard he has amassed a committee of people with a can-do attitude."
With development under way in Toledo's downtown, particularly around the Marina District, the Bay View Park peninsula site would make a good stopping off point for boaters heading further into the city, she said.
"It fits into the Marina District and the marina project because it's at the mouth of the river essentially," Ms. Webb said. "It's one of the only locations in the city of Toledo that you can see the Maumee Bay."
For Mr. Pinkley, development of the site would mean bringing back to life a once thriving spot where Toledoans, including his grandparents, would come and relax and find entertainment.
In the early half of the 20th century, people would visit Bay View Park and particularly next-door Cullen Park, which were on the streetcar line and boasted beaches, an amusement park, and a dance hall, Ms. Webb said.
"This is a destination. Once this thing is under way, it's going to generate redevelopment of the Maumee River," Mr. Pinkley enthused.
"We'll show the rest of Toledo what entertainment is all about."
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at email@example.com or 419-724-6272.