By Alex Boroff
“They took a junkyard and made it into a nice park,” Dan Thornton said.
Thornton, Fostoria city engineer, refers to Fostoria Rail Park. Those who remember what the space between Columbus Avenue and South Poplar Street looked like years ago may remember old buildings and overgrown weeds. Now, the area holds a park that the city hopes will encourage more tourism to Fostoria.
Thornton is one of many looking forward to the opening of the Fostoria Rail Park, set to officially open at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15.
The City of Fostoria, Fostoria Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau and the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication 3-3:30 p.m., followed by a reception at the BANKquet Hall on the corner of Main and Tiffin streets.
The park sits in the heart of the “Iron Triangle,” where two CSX lines and one Norfolk Southern line intersect to bring a significant amount train traffic each day through Fostoria.
Whitta Construction of Fostoria was awarded the bid for the project, and began work on the park in April 2013. The park features a viewing pavilion for train watchers, parking lot with access from South Poplar Street, lighting for nighttime photography, and a heated restroom.
For rail fans, the park is a much awaited feature of an area that is already a hotspot for train watching.
“We’ve had people since day one asking when the rail park is going to be done,” said Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler. “I’ve had calls from people all over the country.”
Though total figures on the construction costs will not be finalized for several months, the rail park cost an estimated $1.1 million.
About 80 percent of the project was covered by an $815,760 grant awarded to the city by the Ohio Department of Transportation in 2007.
Preparation for the site included the demolition of a pork-packing plant in December 2010. A $300,000 USEPA grant helped the city clear the site.
The park was to be completed by the end of the year, Thornton said, noting that Whitta Construction kept on schedule in spite of some delays due to heavy summer rains.
Thornton also noted that the park and its facilities are high quality.
“All materials are top-notch,” he said. “Everything in there should last a very long time.”
The project had long been supported by the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society. FRPS secretary-treasurer Ellen Gatrell said she is anxious to see the park open, as are rail fans.
“They can’t wait,” she said.
Gatrell added that the site will help further promote the city as a great place to view trains. She credited the city government with making the project happen.
“We have a city government that realizes that rail fans and tourism is something that they should actually believe in,” she said.
Thornton noted that he often meets out-of-town train watchers during his visits to the site to check on the park’s progress.
“I met three guys from Cincinnati who came up just to see it,” he mentioned.
The five-acre site is large enough to support additional features to the park.
Gatrell said possibilities for the park include a gift shop or museum.
“I think the combination of the Rail Festival and Rail Park have potential to bring people to Fostoria,” Keckler added. “There is a lot of possibility with it.”
Used with permission http://www.fostoriafocus.com/