ROSSFORD — The Edward Ford Memorial renovation project has expanded with new outdoor amenities and the possible inclusion of a planned outdoor refreshment area.
The new concept artwork was unveiled at the Nov. 15 council meeting, when the Convention and Visitors Bureau presented its plans for the 125th anniversary celebration.
City Manager Allyson Murray explained some changes to the layout, which would include an expanded stage in place of the gazebo to include outdoor seating, strings of Edison lights and an open area that could freeze in the winter, if possible an outdoor ice rink.
The location would also be the start or entrance of the proposed DORA, which was introduced later in the same meeting.
Toledo Design Collective created the plan. The aim is to turn the park into a destination for arts and cultural events that would attract visitors. The current pavilion, or gazebo, would be expanded by adding a deck and removing fences.
“It would in no way impede what’s going on with Stroll the Street and give everyone an idea of what’s going on in the back corner,” Murray said. “It would have a lot of extra seats because that’s always a problem when you’re walking down the street.”
Recent design changes were done by Edge Landscape Architecture.
The RCVB already calls the park the Rossford Gate. It honors Edward Ford, who is credited with building Rossford as a “company town”. The park was built for the centennial, but the RCVB has struggled to use it for activities and programming. The concept of the renovation started in 2017 and in May 2019 the “Walk on the Street” started, followed by the launch of the “Legacy Building Campaign” in November 2019.
Mayor Neil MacKinnon explained that the COVID pandemic hindered the revitalization and renovation, which included securing funding through grants, sponsorships and donations. So far, the city has pledged up to $15,000 and secured a $2,500 ArtStart grant from the Ohio Arts Council, as well as a $2,000 Cultural Tourism Planning Grant from Ohio Humanities and $16,000 in sponsorships from NSG, IPS, Amazon, Genoa Bank, Fifth. Third Bank and Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski LLC.
An online survey of Rossford residents following the 2019 Stroll the Street trial found that 88% of respondents either didn’t know the park existed, had never been there or rarely visited it. By the end of the 2022 season, the weekly event drew 300-500 attendees to see live bands, 50 vendors and 20 food trucks.
Councilman Robert Ruse commented on the changes.
“It’s great that we’re including the space. I guess I’m a little surprised that we’ve gone five years down the road with a lot of fundraising, a lot of donated time from engineers and architects and a design firm that had input from the city to a completely different plan. we spent money,” Ruse said. “Bringing the Edge concept never went through committee, so I’m very disappointed in that aspect.
Ruse said materials were even purchased that were scrapped along with the earlier plan.
“It’s better,” MacKinnon said.