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Glass City Metropark, International Park to be blended into one big downtown riverfront project

Several actions were approved on Earth Day by Metroparks Toledo board members to keep on track what the organization calls the single most ambitious project in the park district’s history.

Perhaps none were more important than the formalization of a marriage between the future Glass City Metropark and International Park, the latter of which was owned and operated by the city of Toledo for decades.

City councilmen unanimously agreed Tuesday to offer International Park to Metroparks Toledo for $1. On Wednesday, the Metroparks Toledo Board of Park Commissioners voted 4-0 to accept the offer. Metroparks Commissioner Kevin Dalton left the five-member board’s meeting before the vote because of a prior commitment.

“This resolution takes a giant step forward toward reaching our vision,” said Fritz Byers, a board vice president, adding that the project will help Toledo “emerge from this time of dislocation” with a stronger and more vibrant downtown riverfront.

Metroparks Board President Scott Savage agreed.

“As plain as day, I can see all of this becoming real and revitalizing downtown,” Mr. Savage said. “It’s really going to be transformational for our region.”

The acquisition did not come out of the blue: As Mr. Byers said, the deal is the “culmination of years of engagement” between the park district and the city.

International Park was part of the master plan released to the public during the summer of 2018 by Ann Arbor-based SmithGroupJJR, the park district’s consultant-architect for the Glass City Metropark.

The ultimate goal is to blend the two parks into one large riverfront green space across from Promenade Park, with a future earth-bermed pedestrian bridge over Main Street in East Toledo connecting the two. The park district also hopes to acquire some private property in the vicinity of Glass City Metropark to extend that facility into East Toledo neighborhoods.

Emily Ziegler, Metroparks planning director, told the board the Glass City Metropark will be taking more shape in the coming weeks, especially once construction begins on a modern pavilion with a green roof.

The board voted 4-0 in favor of pursuing what Mr. Savage believes is a record $27 million in grant applications for the park district, the largest of which will be for a $25 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant that would be used to improve public access to the Maumee River from both downtown and East Toledo.

Improvements would be made to the existing seawall and transient docks downtown. There also will be more access developed for bicyclists and pedestrians near Promenade Park, and a kayak-share program.

On the east side, similar improvements are envisioned along International Park and the future Glass City Metropark.

Money also would be used to build the core of the future Glass City Riverwalk.

Construction of such improvements along both sides of the river would begin in early 2022, and take up to five years.

“The project places an emphasis on quality of life and improving healthy lifestyles through alternative transportation that encourages energy efficiency practices, such as walking, bicycling, and transit,” according to a brief submitted to the board.

The Metroparks Toledo board agreed to have the park district come up with the required 20 percent match, which comes to $5 million.

Dave Zenk, Metroparks Toledo executive director, said the impetus for the project is a Brookings Institution report from the early 2000s which said port cities with walk-friendly downtown riverfronts tend to fare better economically.

Other board action Wednesday included a 4-0 decision to pursue up to $850,000 in state and federal grant money for shoreline habitat restoration work near the future Glass City Metropark.

Money for that grant is being made available by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of a settlement reached with companies that polluted the lower Ottawa River and portions of western Lake Erie in years past.

The board also approved by a 4-0 vote an additional allocation of $73,120 to have SmithGroupJJR design more of that site’s work now so it can be done under Phase 1 of the project, and by a 4-0 vote approved a development agreement with the city of Toledo for Phase 2.

One of several items planned under Phase 2 is the construction of facilities for urban camping on the edge of the Glass City Metropark.

The board voted 4-0 to pursue a $1 million grant for that work. The grant is being made available by the National Park Service’s Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program. Those grants require a 100 percent match.

A brief submitted to the Metroparks board states that the federal government has determined that interest in camping is growing nationally, with 18 to 34-year-olds accounting for nearly half of all new campers.


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on April 22, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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