New park for Ward One to open on Ridge Street


Ridge Park

By Holly Shively and By Holly Shively

First-ward residents will gain the first public park in Ward One’s history after its official ribbon cutting Monday, October 19.

Ridge Park will officially open after two years of planning at 4 p.m. Monday. Located in the first ward at the corner of Ridge Street and North Summit Street, the site previously housed Ridge Elementary School, which closed in May 2013.

When the school closed, the site was planned for auction. Residents worried that the area would become a parking lot or more apartment buildings, and they looked to Ward One council member Daniel Gordon for help.

“We didn’t know who was going to be the highest bidder, and so we didn’t know what use there would be for it,” Gordon said.

Though there were many options for the lot, including a charter school, senior center, and office space, citizens were concerned with the loss of the only public play space for children in the first ward. With this in mind, Gordon presented Ordinance 8277 to purchase the site and build Ridge Park. City council appropriated the funds to purchase the site and demolish the school building in a unanimous vote to approve Ordinance 8277.

“Our department didn’t have money set aside for a brand new park,” said Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley.

Without already existing funds, Parks and Recreation, along with city council, set to fundraising. Gordon said that through grants and private donations over $70,000 has been raised towards the $85,000 goal.

The city plans to complete Ridge Park in two phases. Development of the southern half, facing Ridge Street, is phase one and will include the playground equipment, bike racks, benches, trees and plaques commemorating the school and thanking donors. Phase one will be completed and opened at the ribbon cutting ceremony Monday.

“The city is kind of taking the wait and see approach,” Gordon said about phase two. Gordon anticipates development will come for the open space, but it will wait until the city sees what citizens want.

Preserving a play space for local families isn’t the only benefit of building Ridge Park.

Gordon said that the City Improvement Plan showed that the east side has been neglected over the past several decades. “When housing conditions deteriorate, when property values decline—when people don’t feel as safe or proud of their neighborhoods—that affects the entire city,” Gordon said. “It’s now actually conventional wisdom that we need to do more for our east side neighborhoods…and Ridge is definitely part of that.”

Tom Rodgers, a University student running against Gordon for election to city council in the first ward said, “The park obviously is going to increase the home value in that area, and I think the next step for increasing the value of that area is to fix up the houses … and when we do that we’re making the whole community better and making it more attractive for more young couples to move in.”