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About International Park
With more than 200 acres of waterfront along both banks of the Maumee River, which feeds into Lake Erie, Toledo is a former shipbuilding city that is rediscovering its waterfront heritage. A major element of that effort was the creation of International Park, a 63-acre railroad yard site on the east side of the Maumee River, opposite downtown. This site was identified and acquired to be a public park; determining the best uses for the park was a little more complicated.
Existing structures on the site were converted to other uses—a maintenance facility building has become The Docks, a popular restaurant spot, and the city’s department of parks, recreation, and forestry occupies a smaller building there. The remainder of the site has had many “personalities,” however. The city constructed a tournament-class outdoor volleyball facility, and funds from various donors have provided for a fountain located in the harbor, a gazebo, and other features. A riverwalk along the Maumee traverses through the park. Perhaps the best-known activity in the park is the International Festival of Lights, which occurs each December.
It became apparent that to revitalize its eastern riverfront area Toledo needed to develop a comprehensive vision and plan for International Park, one that connects the park to its surrounding neighborhood. With a grant from The City Parks Forum, Mayor Carlton Finkbeiner and his parks staff convened a one-day “Waterfront Strategies Forum” involving local interest groups, property owners, and potential developers to gather needed information for developing a strategic plan. The data gathered at this charrette was then organized into various design and planning recommendations for International Park and presented in the form of a poster map depicting the findings of the process. Long-standing issues regarding site design and access were addressed, including a preferred pedestrian and vehicle circulation system.
The revitalization of International Park has grown even further than its immediate neighborhood; it has become part of a broader downtown redevelopment strategy, the Downtown Toledo Master Plan. This plan calls for the creation of a riverfront cultural entertainment district, of which International Park will be a key element. The planning effort in Toledo proves once again that waterfront revitalization continues to be a crucial element to the economic and social health of America’s cities.
From International Park Plan