What is the next stage in the restoration of Firestone Park proposed by the Restoration and Beautification Committee? Its goal is to recapture its original plantings and add a new generation of trees, bushes, and flowers in newly themed gardens and develop meaningful memorial artifacts. The process began with workshops on July 15th, 16th, and 17th conducted by Cindy Tyler and Anna Werle of Terra Design Studios of Pittsburgh. A select committee of stakeholders convened at city hall and in the park to explore options, revisit history, and develop visions for our special gift from Harvey S. Firestone.
Committee members included Mayor Bryan Blakeman, City Manager Lance Willard, Park Manager Terry Shaffer, retired park Supt. Jay Groner, city council member Skip Liston, park board member Nancy Tirpak, the trustees of the Restoration committee–Pat Tingle, Vaughn Musser, Donna Bekar, Jan
Rochette, Tucker Cope, Dawn Rance–Jay Brothers representing the Tingle family, local landscapers Skip McCullough and John Hippley, Keith Kaiser horticulturist, and ad hoc committee members Barbara Farrand, and Teresa Masters. Josh Menning of Menning Films was also present to film the final session for the documentary being made to record the historic events taking place.
Terra Design Studios is a nationally known design firm which has developed parks in more than 40 states. If you visit their website, terradesignstudios.com,the quality of their work is obvious. They have done all kinds of gardens including public, family, children’s, academic, cultural, nature and heritage, and green infrastructures. They believe each garden they develop has a story to tell, and that is exactly what the Restoration Committee was looking for—as we have a Firestone story to tell.
On the first day Jay Groner, our local oral historian, gave the core committee a brief slide show of the historic development of the park. From there a caravan of three golf carts took core committee members through the park and cemetery. The Terra Design team was particularly interested in the historic spots …..the Firestone Memorial in the cemetery, the two historic markers and the spring at the southeast corner of the pool parking lot, the pillars in the newly dedicated Mirror Lake offering tribute to the friendship of Firestone, Ford, and Edison. They admired the ageless stone pavilions and the pool house. They looked with an eye for wonderful views within the park and areas that detracted from them. They were particularly interested in improving the entrances to the park, the signage, and efficiency of roadways. On the second day they retired to the Dutch Haus Inn for what they call a “Terra Draws” day. During that day they developed a preliminary draft of what they call their “Master Plan.”
At the final meeting of the larger committee on the third day, the draft was presented. The group had an opportunity to respond and react to their preliminary ideas of what might be done to honor the history, as well as beautify particular areas and minimize problematic areas.
Some of their ideas included the following:
A Legacy Trail meandering through the park; starting at the Firestone Memorial in the cemetery and using the original brick entrance to cross Park Avenue and enter the park proper, this trail features the original spring where early settlers stopped to water their horses, the spot where Harvey Firestone stood to survey the park’s development.
The adjacent area will feature an arboretum in memory of Bradford Tingle (for whom this entire project is being dedicated), a gazebo and garden named for Idabelle Firestone focusing on her interest in music and gardens, a series of other small themed gardens.
Continuing across the main roadway by the pool, passing the football stadium, the Legacy Trail ends at the memorial at Mirror Lake. Additional historic features along the trail are being explored. It is hoped we can use the historic bricks from the gutters to mark the path. With the gutter reconstruction planned for spring 2020, there should be ample bricks left over.
Another key to the beautification of the park, is the designation of each of the four pavilions with a seasonal name (Spring Pavilion, Summer Pavilion, Fall Pavilion, and Winter Pavilion) with plantings appropriate for those seasons at each.
Special attention to all the entrances to the park was also detailed. All the entrances would have formal developed structures and signage as well as new plantings. The two beautiful new mahogany/gold leafed signs constructed and carved by Lloyd Miller (presented in a previous Postings column) will be erected at the two Park Avenue entrances with new landscaping to enhance them.
A number of areas in the park which detract from its aesthetics will be screened with a variety of the original plants many of us remember from the early days of the park. Efficient signage will also be developed to lead visitors throughout the park.
The Terra Design professionals will return in September with a more detailed and comprehensive plan for the committee. When completed this will be presented to the Park Board and City Council for approval.
We can’t wait to see what other interesting and visionary ideas they will come up with … a wonderful new era for our park, it will, of course, take several years in the making. Our hope is that all residents will embrace this project and adventure with the enthusiasm and appreciation we, the committee, are now feeling.