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Committee outlines improvement plans for park

COLUMBIANA – The local committee working on a major improvement project for Firestone Park is turning its attention toward the outdated brick gutters, and plans are also in the works for new memorial benches.

Pat Tingle of the Restoration and Beautification Committee told city council this week the existing gutters are a safety hazard.

“They are unsightly. They are dangerous,” she said.

The way the old brick gutters were constructed makes it easy for someone to fall into them and get hurt, she explained.

She said the committee is working with Herbert, Rowland and Grubic Inc. on the plans for the new gutters, which would not only be more safe to the public, but would incorporate the existing brick to preserve the park’s history.

The firm has estimated the gutters would cost around $200,000, she said.

The gutters are only one aspect of the overall nearly $3 million park improvement project undertaken by the committee.

Tingle said a generous $300,000 donation from an anonymous person is being used as leverage money for grant funding and that the committee has grants targeted for this year and next year.

The project is being done in phases as funding is made available.

Tingle said the committee is also planning a new fundraiser for the project, and that is the sale of about 30 memorial benches that will be placed around the park.

The benches will cost around $3,000 to $5,000 for individuals, businesses and companies in the community.

Tingle also encouraged the city to get involved in the project and said that the Firestone family’s attorney Bob Troyer has advised the committee they would only get involved once they see the city involved.

“He said the Firestone family will not commit to the Firestone Park until we see how Columbiana will support the park,” she said.

She specifically pointed out that Troyer said the park’s maintenance has “gone down” over the years, and noted that as the improvement project moves forward, that will also mean an increase in the maintenance required.

“We think about that as we start on these big projects. Even if we were to complete just half of what we proposed, which would be $1.5 million, we are still going to increase the need for maintenance within the park,” she said.

She suggested the city look into other communities’ maintenance programs and costs to see a comparison.

Council did not discuss the matter, but Mayor Bryan Blakeman said the volunteer committee should be commended for raising nearly half a million dollars on the project so far.

Council member Crystal Boggs asked if the improvement plans include the relocation of Funland, and said residents have been asking about it on Facebook.

Tim Schram with HRG said Funland is included in the master plan, but exactly what will happen hasn’t been decided at this point.

“It could stay where it is or it could be relocated to be a little more centralized,” he said.