(Toledo, OH) I have lived in the neighborhood near Foxglove Meadow park for many years, and it has traditionally been a sort of forgotten patch of public land.
The park, moreover, became known as a hangout for local hoodlums, and one was likely to see empty liquor bottles, teens smoking pot, and people dumping garbage in this space. The tennis courts fell into disrepair, and the place was largely an eyesore instead of a center of community.
On trips through the park I would have my guard up, convinced through experience that I was likely to run into various lowlifes.
The city has embarked on a campaign to improve its public spaces, and Foxglove Meadow is one of the targeted parks that are receiving long-overdue attention.
One of the most prominent changes has been the installation of an 8'-wide path around the perimeter of the park. The path makes better use of an extensive floodplain surrounding Tifft Creek, land that formerly sat empty except during periods of flooding.
I am not sure of the exact distance of the main path, but using the "one stride equals one yard" method, I estimate it to be approximately one-half mile in length.
Ongoing drainage improvements in the local watershed have increased the amount of water in the section of the creek passing through Foxglove Meadow, and it holds a greater depth of water throughout the year.
The park has begun to attract a greater diversity of wildlife, including at least four muskrats.
The cold weather did not seem to deter the two muskrats I saw today; their thick, waterproof brown fur insulates them well in the cold Ohio winters.
Efforts by area residents to provide bird seed and ground corn have also attracted a growing population of ducks to the park. Today I counted 57 Mallards waddling in and around the creek.
I met a woman today who has been feeding the ducks, and she said that she spends about $5 every two weeks on a 50-pound bag of ground corn.
There were very few ducks prior to 2006 in Foxglove Meadow, and those that appeared tended to be transient in nature. This season the duck poulation has taken flight (pun intended), and I hope that any ducks who migrate south this winter will return in the spring to the park.
The city installed benches at strategic locations throughout the park, which provide seating for tired walkers as well as those who wish to simply sit back and enjoy nature for a few minutes.
Even on this dreary, rainy November morning there were eight people making use of the park. On sunny days one can find dozens of people walking, jogging, or taking their dogs for a stroll.
Before the renovation of the park, few residents ventured into the place beyond the aforementioned nefarious types. I used to discourage my children from playing there, because they were more likely to discover crack pipes than to explore the beauty of nature.
The city worked with a contractor named Kohne, Inc. on the renovation. Also included in the design was a small picnic area, and improvements to the wooden bridge that crosses the creek.
The funds used to redevelop this park have improved the quality of life for the several thousand people who live within a mile of the space. While I am often critical of wasteful government expenditures, I should also now congratulate the city of Toledo for money that - in my opinion - has been well spent.
More importantly, I see people picking up trash, chatting with one another, and treating the park as a community center in a neighborhood that previously lacked a true focal point.