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Opinions mixed on park plans for E. Toledo

Mixed views surfaced during a public meeting Wednesday when Metroparks of the Toledo Area asked prospective visitors what they want at a planned new park in the former Marina District in East Toledo.

Organizers told the attendees the park is planned in conjunction with a new residential and commercial area to be created nearby. Plans call for the park to take up a part of undeveloped land on the east bank of the Maumee River, across from downtown Toledo.

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Plans for the former Marina District in East Toledo call for a new park and residential and commercial areas.

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“They are not living in reality,” said Karen McNaughton, who works in East Toledo and lives in the Old West End. “Probably 50 percent of the [East Toledo] community is living below the poverty level. My concern is what kind of stores they are going to put in there. Who do they think will move to the east side?”

Ms. McNaughton was one of about 100 visitors who mingled in the Waite High School’s cafeteria at 301 Morrison Drive in East Toledo. Many lined up at information stations to discuss the plan with SmithGroupJJR architects, who gathered individuals’ suggestions.

She said she is also concerned with the “safety factor, considering that this Zip code is one of the city’s first in heroin use.”

John Forbes, 66, of East Toledo also said he was concerned about safety at the proposed park, adding “they will need a little more security down here than at other Metroparks.” He worries the new park is likely to attract vagrants and gang members.

“[But] I hope that it works out,” Mr. Forbes said. “I think it’s a good idea if they open it up as a park and have water recreation facilities and security.”

His wife Linda Forbes, 62, agreed. She also added a suggestion:

“We like to ride our bikes,” she said. “It would be nice if they had more bike trails.”

The public input will be used to draft the park’s conceptual plan. That plan will be presented at a followup meeting to get additional feedback.

SmithGroupJJR designed the new riverfront Middlegrounds Metropark near downtown Toledo and Howard Marsh Metropark, now under construction in Jerusalem Township.

According to initial plans for the East Toledo site, ProMedica will sell about 55 acres of its land to the park district. Developer Frank Kass plans to build a 370-unit residential project and restaurant at Main Street and Riverside Drive.

“This is a great opportunity for the residents of East Toledo and other parts of the city,” Toledo Councilman Peter Ujvagi said. “This is a great opportunity for them to participate in the [park planning] process. It’s very important that the community buys into the park through this planning process.”

The Metroparks plans to buy the land in three phases for about $3 million with an option to buy 18 acres more owned by the city of Toledo. The park district already has secured $1.2 million from a Clean Ohio Fund grant for the $1.9-million purchase price of the 21 acres for the first phase.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time for a real project to happen along the river front,” Mr. Ujvagi, who spoke at the meeting, said. “This is for real.”

The Metroparks plans to begin construction of the first phase in 2018.

Contact Mike Sigov at: sigov@theblade.com, 419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

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