By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
With so much debate swirling around the marijuana moratorium Tuesday evening, a long-awaited step by Bowling Green City Council almost went unnoticed.
City Council gave the first reading to a resolution declaring the city’s property at 215 W. Wooster St. as open public space.
With no debate and no fanfare, the property at the corner of South Church, West Wooster and South Grove streets was officially declared as open space. The resolution states the property, formerly the site of the city junior high, is to be developed in consideration of the concept design prepared by the Green Space Task Force.
At least seven members of the Green Space Task Force sat quietly in the council chambers Tuesday evening, waiting to see what would become of their plan. They left without comment, knowing that their efforts were not in vain.
The task force’s plan was originally presented to city council nearly a year ago. But the plan seemed to stall out at that point, and council decided to do further study on the site in case a new city building could share the property with a community green space.
Though a study showed it was possible to combine both a new city building and green space on the acreage, the bulk of the public pressure came from citizens who wanted the site to remain undeveloped, except for a few town square features. Mayor Dick Edwards also threw his weight toward the preservation of a green space for public use.
So on Tuesday, in the shadow of the medical marijuana moratorium debate, City Council gave its first reading to the resolution setting aside the location as green space, and supporting the task force’s proposal.
The task force’s plan calls for a multi-purpose commons space with wide walkways leading to a large gathering space. The space would include street lighting that would match the rest of the downtown lights, benches, shade options of either sails or umbrellas, a defined brick entrance on the northeast and northwest corners, bicycle racks and trees.
The plan also calls for a gazebo sized to accommodate medium-sized groups, with a raised platform and steps open to the front.
Future plans call for a sculpture to reflect Bowling Green culture and heritage, and a circular flower bed to hold space for the sculpture. After the site is developed, the resolution states that significant changes would require council review and approval – making time for public input.
The task force was also charged with devising a fundraising strategy to pay for development of the green space. The city has already spent $497,401 on the site, with almost all of that going to demolish the former junior high.
The estimated cost to complete the design for the green space is nearly $250,000, with the bigger price tags for the gazebo, landscaping and irrigation, brick pillars, lighting fixtures, Victorian fountain or statue; concrete and benches. The task force hopes to raise funds to cover the entire cost in one to two years.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting Bowling Green City Council recognized Bob Midden as Bicycle Spokesperson of the Year, at the recommendation of the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission.
Edwards referred to Midden as a “dedicated bicyclist,” who takes bike safety very seriously.
“I’m truly honored,” Midden said, expressing a desire to share the honor with other bicyclists in the community. “I’m taking it only as a representative of all the biking advocates in the city.”
Midden said Bowling Green is ideal for cycling, with its many flat, calm streets.
“I can get around BG almost as fast as I can in a car,” he said.
Midden also said he hopes the city can make progress on adding some type of bike lanes in the community, and thanked those working for improvements. “Thanks to everybody who does so much to advance bicycling here in BG.”
He also made a pitch for wearing helmets when biking. He told of being hit by a vehicle when he was bicycling, landing on his head and cracking his helmet.
“I’m here telling you about that because I was wearing a helmet,” he said.
City Council also recognized Police Officer Robin Short, who was named a Hometown Hero recently by Modern Woodmen. Short serves as the DARE officer in schools, works with the Safety Town program, and coaches many youth summer sports with the city parks and recreation department.
“You are truly amazing,” Edwards said of Short’s work with children. “They know you, they love you, they respect you.”
Police Chief Tony Hetrick praised Short for doing a “phenomenal job” with youth and for being “a good solid police officer.”
And Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said, “thank you for everything you have done for our community and the youth.”
Short thanked the city and schools – “you give me the opportunity every day to love my job.”
In other business, council:
- Heard from Hetrick that the Wood County Prevention Coalition will host a speaker on Sept. 16, at 8:30 a.m., on the effort to raise Ohio’s legal minimum age for tobacco to 21. The meeting will be held in the Wood County Educational Service Center.
- Learned from Planning Director Heather Sayler that the next Community Action Plan meeting will be Oct. 11, at 6:30 p.m. The location is yet to be determined.
- Heard from Public Works Director Brian Craft that the city is in its 30-day education period on the new trash bin rules. During that period, city employees will visit some neighborhoods to make people aware of the rules, and issue warning stickers for violations.