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Published: Wednesday, 6/26/2013

FACE-LIFT IN THE WORKS

Perrysburg plans ambitious overhaul of riverfront parks

$26M proposal includes theater, ice rink, docks

BY MATT THOMPSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Hood Park, which includes a Civil War monument, is up for renovation as part of a $26 million proposal that Perrysburg officials hope will give visitors greater access to the city's waterfront. Hood Park, which includes a Civil War monument, is up for renovation as part of a $26 million proposal that Perrysburg officials hope will give visitors greater access to the city's waterfront.
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The City of Perrysburg is considering a $26 million riverfront makeover that would add a theater, ice rink, multipurpose path, and even call for the relocation of the Commodore Perry Statue downtown.

A 103-page master plan will be unveiled to city council at 5:30 p.m. July 30 by the Harley Ellis Devereaux design company of Southfield, Mich. The plan includes $10.87 million in estimated improvements and additions to Orleans Park, $3.16 million to Riverside Park, and $12 million at Hood Park.

The city plans to fund the long-term project through grants and by slowly using money from the general fund. Mayor Nelson Evans said he wants to avoid using a levy to pay for it, unless residents really get behind the project and want it done as soon as possible.

RELATED CONTENT: Perrysburg Riverfront Master Plan Report -- Warning, file is large and may take some time to download/open.

“We looked at the riverfront from the Perrysburg Boat Club to Fort Meigs and thought about what we could do to increase activity there and make it more desirable,” said Brody Walters, Perrysburg’s planning and zoning administrator. “This is one of the biggest progressive attempts in northwest Ohio. It is a big deal in this area.”

But the plan already is being met with opposition.

City council member Todd Grayson said “that won’t fly” when he was told about the $26 million project. During meetings with the design firm, he said council members have asked the company to do less to make things “more realistic.”

“It’s too much,” Mr. Grayson said. “I don’t think anyone is in love with the size and scope of what has been presented. I think it needs to be a little more down to earth.”

He would be in favor of putting in the multiuse path connecting the three parks along the riverfront, along with adding a fishing pier, bird watching sites, and improving the docks gradually. He said moving the Commodore Perry Statue, as well as a Civil War monument, while putting in a fountain, civic building, and breakwater is “not in the cards with the council.”

The proposed plan would give Orleans Park a mile of mountain bike trails, a rock climbing area, ice skating rink, zip line, high-ropes course, archery range, playground and picnic areas, a canoe and kayak storage area and launch site, several fishing piers and bird watching areas, and more parking.

It also calls for a pedestrian bridge over the Maumee River southwest of Orleans Park.

An amphitheater would go in Riverside Park and would be leveled to be wheelchair accessible on sloping paths. The additions would include a fishing and observation deck and terrace seating for large concerts.

Another addition to the park would be a biofilter water feature. A water garden would have steps from Front Street down to the river.

Harley Ellis Devereaux designed two plans for Hood Park. Both include relocating Commodore Perry to slightly down the slope between Front Street and the river. Mr. Walters said that way people can have a better view of the Maumee River from downtown. It would also relocate the Fallen Heroes Memorial and Civil War monument.

Both plans include building a breakwall for the marina as well as water cascading down to connect Front Street and the Maumee River. There would be more dock space for boats, and also cafe areas.

The plan has a sloped lawn from the street down to the docks with a small theater area at the bottom, more parking, and outdoor seating. A grand stair option is extremely similar, only instead of a sloped lawn, it would be a huge two-leveled staircase with the Commodore Perry Statue in the middle area.

“I sucked in my breath when I heard that,” Mayor Evans said of relocating the statue. “But obviously where it sits now it visually stops the view of the river.”

Council member Joe Lawless said he supports improving the riverfront and access for citizens with a multiuse path, but not for a theater to create “parking and traffic” problems.

A grant from the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments — $629,000 that the city is slated to receive in 2019 — will pay for 80 percent of the cost to put in the multipurpose path.

Riverfront homeowners on the north side of Front Street are not happy about the projected asphalt path that would be 10 to 12 feet wide and travel through their backyards.

The entrance to Hood Park, which includes a statue of Commodore Perry, is up for renovation alongside Perrysburg's Riverside Park and Orleans Park. The entrance to Hood Park, which includes a statue of Commodore Perry, is up for renovation alongside Perrysburg's Riverside Park and Orleans Park.
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Charles Pfleghaar, who lives along the river, is concerned about how the city will maintain the path.

He said last week he saw four or five condoms and tampons on an existing trail. The city owns the right-of-way and residents own the land on either side.

“On Sunday I saw two people out there all but having sex,” said Karen Elwardany, a riverfront resident. “My son had to yell, ‘Hey.’ ”

Mrs. Elwardany is worried they could have more of these problems after it is redone. Mr. Pfleghaar is also concerned about the foundation of his house if a retaining wall is necessary for the project. An engineer told him that if the ground is disturbed down the hill toward the river, it will affect the higher ground.

“A qualified engineer will review any future plans to make sure we don’t cause harm to land, property, or buildings,” Mr. Walters said.

Mr. Walters said the project idea began in 2005 when Perrysburg residents told the city they wanted more access to the riverfront. In 2011, a brainstorming group was put together of business owners, council members, and other “stakeholders” to talk about what they wanted and didn’t want for the upgrades.

That group was led by Mayor Evans, Director of Public Service Jon Eckel, City Administrator Bridgette Kabat, City Engineer Doug Dariano, Director of Public Utilities Tim Warren, Mr. Walters, and Wastewater Treatment Plant’s Rick Schmeltz.

Harley Ellis Devereaux’s designs cost the city $50,000, according to Mr. Walters.

While some residents and council members have raised concerns so far, a local historian praised the planning.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea. We have a wonderful waterfront, and we should do something with it,” said Judy Justus, president of the Perrysburg Area Historic Museum. “Good luck [on relocating Commodore Perry]. I always wondered why they put it there in the first place.”

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com or 419-356-8786 or on Twitter at @mthompson25.


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