McCulloch Park plan far from funding goal
SALEM — Members of city council’s Economic Development Committee didn’t commit any money, but voted in support of a project to renovate McCulloch Park into a downtown destination, suggesting Salem Preservation continue working on fundraising in 2019.
Salem Preservation wanted the city to seek the full $71,814 available to Columbiana County this year for a NatureWorks grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to put toward the $354,516 to $425,419 project cost, but Mayor John Berlin pointed out that in order to qualify, they would need to show they could fund the entire project cost up front, which they cannot do.
Also, the Salem Parks & Recreation Department was already applying for the NatureWorks funding for a restroom renovation project at Waterworth Memorial Park and already held a public hearing on the matter, which is a requirement of the grant. The parks department was looking at a tentative budget of $40,000 and can show there’s funding to cover the up-front cost.
The filing deadline for the grant application, which is being written for the city by a representative of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association, is June 1. A resolution in support of the grant application for the restroom project is expected to be presented to Salem City Council tonight.
To date, Salem Preservation has $27,789 raised or committed toward the estimated price for the project meant to enhance McCulloch Park and draw people to downtown.
According to the project mission statement, the plan is “to create a community-centered, interactive, public gathering space in the heart of Historic Downtown Salem, Ohio. This will be accomplished by renovating the deteriorating pocket park, which encourages blight, to a socially engaging greenspace. An open-air space that will inspire social interaction and entertainment, with out Speakers’ Corner/bandstand, eating area, aestetically pleasing gardens and hardscape. This park will reflect the historic context of the town. While stimulating this burgeoning historic area, it will create a ripple effect to the surrounding structures, that honors our historic preservation.”
“I think the idea is to get this out to the public,” Berlin said to the committee, adding it’s a worthwhile project for the city. “Maybe that will help them get some other donors.”
Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey said she would personally like to see the project go through, but she said Salem Preservation should get other funding in place before trying to get this particular grant, noting that the money is available annually and they could apply next year. She also didn’t want to jeopardize the parks department’s application.
The mayor referred to information sent by OMEGA Community Development Specialist Trina Woodland which noted if the city had two applications the same year, the city would have to declare which one had priority, meaning the other application would automatically lose 25 points in scoring, which is a significant amount.
“Without full project funding, a grant application at this time would not be favorable,” Woodland wrote about the McCulloch Park project.
Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, also commented about the fact that NatureWorks isn’t going to fund a project that may not happen for five or six years while raising funds. She said they can’t “do it on speculation.” Projects must be completed in 12 to 18 months.
Jennifer Brown of Salem Preservation, who has talked to city council members before about plans to improve McCulloch Park, noted that previously they thought they would have to lose five or six parking spaces, but now with reconfigured plans, they’ll actually gain a parking space. She’s a member of the committee working on the project. The group hired an architect for $5,000 to put together some plans and has another $10,000 in seed money. The late Jackie Troll bequeathed $10,000 for a garden in the space which has grown to $14,000 since being put in a CD. There’s also a grant from the state for $7,389 toward the project.
Besides the garden, the space will include a covered performance area for bands or speakers, various seating options, a chess board, charging stations, a mural, a gateway arch at the front and bike rack in the back. Paver bricks with names on them already in the park will be preserved. Salem Preservation was instrumental in raising funds for the wall, ticket booth and alumni area at Reilly Stadium, in partnership with the school board, so the group has experience in getting projects done.
Brown said they may qualify for an art grant and noted they’re going for anything they can get to fund the park.
Anyone from the community who would like to donate to the cause can write a check to Salem Preservation and send it to Salem Preservation, P.O. Box 1034, Salem, Ohio 44460, with McCulloch Park in the memo line. Questions can be directed to Brown at 330-337-7818.