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Earl Rinehart, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
After a week with no rain, there's still standing water on the practice fields at Northam Park.
Festival-goers at the Upper Arlington park walk a circuitous route around exhibits and don't see all the booths.
And the senior-citizens center was built as a temporary classroom for kindergartners.
"We have our most heavily used, most-visible and most-special park, a great space, but it evolved with no design. It evolved helter-skelter," Tim Moloney, the city's parks and recreation director, said as he opened a booklet that might hold the answer.
The Greater Northam Park Strategic Master Plan will remake the 22-acre park at Tremont and Northam roads, if private money can be found to supplement public funds. To many, it's the city's "Central Park," the gathering place for its biggest festivals.
The highlight would be a large oval encompassing four soccer-size fields and four baseball diamonds.
The popular clay tennis courts would be moved to Thompson Park on Lane Road. The 12 courts now bisect the park, creating a dam that leaves the practice fields to the north soaked long after a rain.
"The old-timers called it 'the swamp,' " Moloney said.
Ornamental gardens would line the south border along Northam Road and include a pavilion, a gazebo and a reading garden for the adjoining library.
And there would be a new senior center -- built for grownups.
The remaining space with straight paths and promenades would better accommodate the city's arts festival, Taste of Upper Arlington, July Fourth fireworks and other events, Moloney said. "Our community has learned how to make this park work. We didn't build it to make it work."
The master plan goes beyond just the park. It proposes a classroom expansion and a new gymnasium open to the public at neighboring Tremont Elementary.
The adjoining Tremont Pool would be replaced. "An engineering study a few years ago determined the pool has outlived its useful life," Moloney said.
The first phase will begin when Tremont school lets out for the summer and the one big parking lot between the school and library is transformed into two separate lots. Running down the middle will be a slightly raised and marked crosswalk so kids can go from the school to the library more safely.
Parents waiting to pick up their children at the elementary school last week either approved of the plan or, like parent Andrew Martin, "would like to know more about it first."
Colleen Burky lives a block south of the park on Wexford Road. She likes consolidating sports in a central area so the rest of the park is more open to activities.
"Especially the arts festival they have on Labor Day. It's so spread out that I feel I miss a lot of the booths," said Burky, who was among the 25,000 visitors to the one-day event.
The $1 million cost of the parking lot will be split 80 percent city,
20 percent school district. The rest of the project is another story. Moloney said the work on the park -- excluding structures -- is estimated at $20 million.
Throw in the pool and other related projects, and it's obvious that private dollars will be needed. For that, Moloney hopes to count on the Upper Arlington Community Foundation.
W. Gregory Guy, the foundation board's incoming chairman, said Northam is an important tool in Upper Arlington's competition with cities such as Dublin and Westerville for residents and businesses. Those newer suburbs, with their open spaces to build more and bigger parks, have the advantage over older, inner-ring suburbs such as Upper Arlington, he said.
Susan M. Ralph, the foundation's executive director, called the plan "achievable."
"This project is everything that we like to be involved in," she said.
(1) Adam Cairns / Dispatch photos The 22-acre park at Tremont and Northam roads "evolved with no design," a parks official said. (2) Someday this bench might overlook new soccer fields and baseball diamonds, as well as a pavilion, a gazebo and a reading garden for the adjoining library. (3) The Tremont Pool "has outlived its useful life," said Tim Moloney, the city's parks and recreation director. The redesign calls for a new pool, as well as the expansion of neighboring Tremont Elementary School.