Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Collaboration needed to capitalize on region's assets

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    A vintage Ottawa Park postcard.

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    Toledo mayoral candidate Wade Kapszukiewicz during a news conference outside the Toledo police substation in Ottawa Park.

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Greater Toledo is rediscovering the benefits of parks and green space. Emphasizing outdoor recreation and highlighting natural beauty is one key to attracting new residents and jobs.

So now is the time to craft a better overall plan that makes the most of the region’s natural assets.

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Democratic Toledo mayoral hopeful and Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz has joined the call for the city of Toledo to collaborate with the Metroparks of the Toledo Area. The city does a poor job of keeping up its parks, never mind improving or promoting them. By contrast, the Metroparks have a stellar track record of building, maintaining, and marketing their parks.

Toledo ought to strike a deal to hand over at least operations, if not ownership, of the city’s larger and better known parks to the Metroparks, as it did with the Toledo Botanical Garden. And then city officials should take a long, hard look at the remaining small, underused parks that dot the city. Some do not not amount to much more than poorly maintained vacant lots. Others, like Danny Thomas Park, sadly show the city’s neglect.

Toledo can pare down its inventory of 145 parks to focus efforts on a shorter list. It is important to make sure every neighborhood has adequate park space and access to outdoor recreation, but trying to manage 145 parks is not working.

And a city park system should be much, much more than a collection of green spaces and playgrounds. The city must dedicate itself to creating a top-notch recreation program aimed at engaging the city’s youth with sports and fitness programs. At the moment, what the city offers the young is less than minimal.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz has also pitched a plan to turn Grassy Island, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-owned island in Maumee Bay, into a new park connected by a walking path and bridge with Cullen Park on the mainland. This would create a Toledo park along Lake Erie — something bafflingly missing in a city whose culture, recreation, and history are so tied to the lake.

Toledo is also turning, more and more, to the Maumee River as a focal point for city life.

We see that in the development of urban riverfront Metroparks — Middlegrounds, which opened last year, and the yet-unnamed park to be built in the former Marina District.

We see it in Columbus Developer Frank Kass’ plans for a luxury retail and housing development next to the newest Metropark.

We see it in corporate investment in long-empty riverfront parcels by ProMedica and other companies.

So why is it so difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to move along the riverfront?

The riverfront should not only be a focal point, but a viable and attractive path for people to move through the city. The Maumee River is the connector running through Toledo, and people should be able to move along its banks without obstacles. The place to start would be the Erie Street Market, at the mouth of Swan Creek, from which pedestrians ought to be able to move down river, through town, to the Imagination Station, and beyond.

The Toledo region has great green spaces, waterfronts, and other natural assets. It is time for the region’s leaders to collaborate in ways that promote them.

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