The future of the Boardman Arts Park was discussed during Monday’s (Jan. 28) joint meeting between Delaware City Council and the Delaware City Schools Board of Education, but no formal decision was reached.
Northwest Neighborhood Association (NNA) President Roxanne Amidon gave a presentation to the joint meeting about the arts park and what the NNA hopes to accomplish in the future.
The park, located at 154 W. William St., was the former site of Ruth Boardman Elementary School until it was torn down in 1979 and used as an athletic field for students at the then Willis Intermediate School. Since the district transitioned fifth- and sixth-grade students to the elementary schools and Dempsey Middle School, respectively, the park was unused, and the district allowed the NNA to make use of part of the park for events.
“We were afforded the opportunity to use a portion of the field and turn it into what today we call the Boardman Arts Park,” Amidon said. “It’s a demonstration field that lets us bring out visions to life. Here’s what we’ve achieved in the last 18 months or so: We’ve added over 50 pieces of art to the field. We held 22 events to engage the community. We had over 1,300 people come to our antique festival. We raised over $50,000 in infrastructure and maintenance money.”
As for the year ahead, Amidon said the NNA wants to take the park “to a new level.”
“We want a dynamic entertainment venue that really grows the footprint of downtown,” Amidon said. “High tides raise all boats, and we have an opportunity to really grow how we think about our footprint.”
Amidon said the NNA wants the park to hold more events and to be family-friendly, but also financial sustainable.
“Our intention is to make this a financially self-sustaining program,” Amidon said. “We want year-round programming, higher ticket items that let us bring in more people to the community, and they will invest in our town, too.”
Amidon outlined the NNA’s wish list for the park, and she added the NNA wants to add a performance platform to show off art and also hold concerts; have more community gathering spaces; a four-seasons room to allow for activities or events year-round; more parking; landscaping and unique programming.
“We don’t want to replace things that are already happening in this town,” Amidon said. “We want to make sure we are building upon those things or bringing unique programming into the town that you’ve not seen before.”
Amidon said the biggest question for the park is the ownership.
“The school owns it today,” she said. “It’s not something they want to own in the long run. We need to identify how we move this property forward.”
Delaware City Schools Superintendent Paul Craft said the district does not anticipate “a future educational need” for the park, and the district is looking to get rid of the property because it’s just a liability and a maintenance cost.
However, Craft said there’s only two ways for the district to get rid of the property; exchanging it for other land or selling it at public auction.
“With that being said, we are also part of this community and are intrigued by the idea of that art park being a part of this dynamic downtown,” Craft said. “We’d love to see it go another step.”
Craft added the district could consider a lease to either the NNA or the city, and the district “believes” in what the NNA is trying to do with the property.
“There’s a shared belief in the future of this town and the future of that parcel,” Craft said.
City Manager Tom Homan said Amidon and the NNA have presented “an exciting vision.”
“I think they are great ideas. I just don’t know that we want to own it at this time, but I support what you are doing whole-heartedly,” said Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle.
Delaware City Council members discussed the costs of maintaining or day-lighting (uncovering) Delaware Run, which goes through the park. At-large council member George Hellinger said maintaining or day-lighting Delaware Run would be “a significant ongoing cost.”
Amidon said the estimated cost of day-lighting the run is about $500,000.
Council member Lisa Keller said the timing “is really rough,” because the city recently passed a park levy but all the funds from it are spoken for.
No consensus was reached during the meeting, and Craft imposed a deadline of May to look into more options for the park.
More information about the park can be found at www.delawarenna.org.
Amidon was joined at the meeting by several other members of the NNA, many of whom volunteer to maintain the park.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.