Public input sought on park monuments

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The Start Westward National Monument in East Muskingum Park, and the park itself, will be the focus of two public meetings to be held in the next week, with officials looking to gather input from any interested party on what they’d like to see in the park.

Currently the park is host to several benches and bench swings, a variety of trees including a weeping willow, a gazebo in which concerts, weddings and other events take place, and part of the River Trail. Farther north in the park before the Washington Street Bridge the park’s newest addition is the senior playground, sporting low-impact exercise equipment along the trail.

“I want them reflecting on things that they’ve seen elsewhere in other parks and would like to see integrated here,” said Jean Yost, a steering member of the mayor’s appointed Start Westward Monument/East Muskingum Park Restoration Committee. “It’s an opportunity while we’re looking at preserving a national historic monument to also look at how we can enhance the landscape.”

Other public parks across the nation also have added features of water fountains, lookouts over rivers, shelters, interactive lighting and art, and emergency call boxes for safety.

The public meetings will be led by another member of that committee, Anthony Durm, who in his professional capacity works with the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Engineering and Planning Department.

“We want the public’s ideas of things that could, should and should not be done in the development of East Muskingum Park,” explained Durm. “Right now we’re in the timeframe where the monument is getting to be in a critical condition and as an iconic structure of Marietta and nationally if we don’t do something soon to repair and preserve it then we’ll lose it.”

Early estimates to preserve the sculpture, erected in 1938, saw repairs costing north of $100,000.

The sculpture was hewn from native sandstone from a nearby quarry and was carved by Gutzon Borglum, the same sculptor that carved Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

But over the years weather and poor maintenance has shown the degrading of the sandstone sculpture, noticeable around the five figures, pioneers, depicted setting off from the river’s shore.

Marietta City Council authorized earlier this fall putting $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds in 2018 toward the repairs if the most recent grant is realized.

“That was a National Endowment for the Arts ‘Our Town’ grant for about $100,000,” said Hunt Brawley, executive director of the Hippodrome/Colony Historical Theatre Association. “This was a joint application between the city, theater, Marietta Main Street and Buckeye Hills (Regional Development Council.) It’s about integrating art into your comprehensive downtown planning process and incorporating public works.”

Brawley said if the grant is awarded, an additional $7,000 could go toward a study of the monument’s needed repairs.

But the public meetings over the next week are about more than just the national monument, according to Yost.

“Everything between the Putnam Bridge and the Washington Street Bridge, and on to Sacra Via, including the historic museum district, needs to be considered,” he said. “We want to know what would the public like in the park? What makes a wedding in the gazebo better or Shakespeare in the Park easier to experience? We want to hear from the Sweet Corn Festival goers and from kayakers and cyclists that are out along the river.”

The first meeting will be held at the Lafayette Hotel from 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday and the second from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Armory, 241 Front St.

“Public comment sheets will also be available if you want to leave your comments or write them and give them to any committee member or the mayor,” added Durm. “And the city will take comments on its website as well.”

Durm said the hope is to have a full plan for the park by late spring or early summer next year.

At a glance

¯ Public is invited to attend planning meetings for improvements in East Muskingum Park and the Start Westward Monument.

When:

¯ Thursday: 1-2 p.m., Lafayette Hotel, Sternwheel Room.

¯ Nov. 20: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Community meeting room in the Armory, 241 Front St.

¯ Additional comments can be made on the city website: mariettaoh.net or can be provided to one of the following committee members: Douglas Anderson, Larry Burke Jr., Brandon Downing, Anthony Durm, Matthew Evans, Deb Fought, Joe Grimm, Dan Jones, Christina Thrasher, Jean Yost and Suzy Zumwalde.

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

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