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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

PLAN COMMISSION

Hearing to look at $3 million park proposal

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Site plans for a new park near downtown Toledo along the Maumee River are set to go before the Toledo Plan Commission this week, and the park could open in 2015.

The Metroparks of the Toledo Area’s newest project, which will be called Middlegrounds Park, will stretch about a half-mile south from the Anthony Wayne Bridge to a Norfolk Southern rail yard and will include 28 acres.

Dave Zenk, the Metroparks’ deputy director, said the park’s theme will revolve around the land’s former use as a transportation hub that at various times included rail, shipping, and canal systems.

More than a century ago, the property hosted 18 grain silos and played a key role in Toledo being the Great Lakes’ busiest shipping port.

“Historically, this site has evolved as much as any park property we manage. At one point in time, several million bushels of grain were being stored on it and another 1 million bushels were coming in and out every day,” he said.

A public hearing on the parks district’s request will be at the 2 p.m. Thursday plan commission meeting.

The park will offer public access to the riverfront from Ottawa Street. Among planned amenities is an open area where dog owners may unleash their pets.

Mr. Zenk said details on the dog park, such as fencing, are still in the planning stages. He said the Metroparks district plans to submit a request for a special-use permit for the dog park that would be reviewed separately from the overall site plan.

“This will not be a developed dog park. There will not be any obstacles,” he said.

A 3,100-square-foot covered pavilion is to be part of a circular lawn space designed to evoke the layout of a locomotive roundhouse that once stood near the bridge.

About 660 square feet of the pavilion structure will be enclosed for bathroom facilities. Walking trails will emerge from the lawn space, with paths leading to the river, a canal and kayak launch inlet, woods and meadows with native prairie grasses, natural areas, and picnic lawn.

Mr. Zenk said construction of the estimated $3 million park will begin this summer, with some work and completion contingent on the ongoing renovation of the Anthony Wayne Bridge, also known as the High Level Bridge.

If all goes according to plan, the park opening could coincide with the bridge’s scheduled reopening in September, 2015.

“We are totally dependent on what happens to the bridge,” Mr. Zenk said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the bridge renovation, will contribute to the new park by providing a system to collect rainwater and snowmelt from the bridge and pipe it into a wetland parallel to the park’s entrance driveway.

Mr. Zenk said about 30 percent of the project’s $3 million estimated cost will be shared by the Toledo Rotary Club, which donated $300,000 for the pavilion, ODOT, and others.

Bill Thomas, executive director of the Downtown Toledo Improvement Corp., said the new park would not only give people who live and work in the downtown area a place to relax and play, but also would attract visitors from throughout the city, the suburbs, and the region.

“I think it will be another attraction. Even if you don’t live downtown it will be an attraction for people to come downtown,” Mr. Thomas said. “It is going to be a real asset.”

Diane Keil-Hipp, president of the Toledo Warehouse District Association, said the park should improve urban dwellers’ quality of life.

“Anytime you can provide that kind of amenity to a city, it will only attract more people to live down here and visit,” she said.

“We are very excited about the park. There are not many downtowns that can say they have a metropark within walking distance.”

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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