Future of city park landmarks discussed

About two dozen people came out for the first of two public meetings to discuss the future of the Start Westward Monument and East Muskingum Park Thursday at the Lafayette Hotel.

Anthony Durm, with the Ohio Department of Transportation Engineering and Planning Department, is facilitating the meetings as part of the Start Westward Monument/East Muskingum Park Restoration Committee.

“We don’t have all the answers, that’s what we need to get from all of you. So we are glad to see you all here,” he said.

Marietta resident and Marietta Tree Commission liaison Linda Ankrom said that she hoped to hear others’ concerns and input and that’s why she attended Thursday’s meeting.

“We share the same concerns for the monument and our parks in general. The tree commission wants to have a voice and to also hear what this committee has to say,” she explained.

The committee has 11 members appointed by Mayor Joe Matthews, who was also in attendance Thursday.

“I want to thank you all for coming to help us start planning and get ideas from people of what you’d like to see, what you don’t want to see,” he said, adding that comments could also be emailed to MayorJoe@mariettaoh.net.

Jessie Daubert, a former Marietta resident who now lives near Cambridge and commutes to work at Pickering Associates, said he was interested to hear the ideas presented.

“My wife and I went to Marietta College and we love Marietta and have

always loved the park, especially the monument,” he said.

The sandstone Start Westward Monument was erected in 1938 and Franklin Roosevelt came to dedicate it. But time and weather have led to the erosion of the iconic statue.

“You all know it, you maybe even climbed it,” Durm laughed. “But the image you have in your mind is no longer there. A lot of folks in town are probably not even aware that this represents the start of it all. But if we don’t do something, our grandchildren will end up with a pile of sand rather than a sandstone sculpture.”

The focus of the project right now is East Muskingum Park from the Putnam Bridge to the Washington Street Bridge as well as the museum district and Sacra Via. But some members of the public wondered if the scope could be widened.

“I am on the board of the armory and I would suggest that you also extend to the armory which already has facilities, such as restrooms, and is easily accessible by the River Trail,” said Jane Tumas-Serna.

Kathy Boersma with the Lions Club expressed that their annual car show in the park is very popular and she would ask for consideration to keep that event going.

“I do encourage you to look at keeping the open space for our car show because we bring a lot of people into town,” she said. “I also believe the gazebo needs to be handicap-accessible.”

The gazebo was built in 1988, prior to the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to Durm.

Other suggestions included adding more monuments to recognize more recent military engagements, such as Desert Storm, adding flower gardens and upgrading technology to enhance performances in the park.

Wes Clarke, retired from ODOT and archaeologist for The Castle, said there are significant ancient sites located throughout the spaces defined in the project.

“I hope that those will be given special consideration,” he said.

While there were some ideas flowing, there was a question of where the money for any changes was going to come from.

“City Council has set aside as their top priority project this East Muskingum Park and Start Westward project. We have $50,000 set aside from the CDBG,” said Jean Yost, one of the mayor’s committee members. “Last week, we had a private individual give $25,000.”

Federal, state and local grants, as well as donations from individuals and businesses will be sought for the project, once a master plan is conceived.

“As soon as we have heard from all of you and we have a plan, we will find the money,” Yost said.

The next public meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the community meeting room at the armory.

Public comment

¯ Monday, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the community meeting room at the armory, 241 Front St.

¯ City website: mariettaoh.net

¯ Committee members: Douglas Anderson, Larry Burke Jr., Brandon Downing, Anthony Durm, Matthew Evans, Deb Fought, Joe Grimm, Dan Jones, Christina Thrasher, Jean Yost, Suzy Zumwalde.

Source: Start Westward Monument/East Muskingum Park Restoration Committee.