With all of the doom and gloom in the news concerning the sagging real estate market, increasing numbers of foreclosures, layoffs, and disappearing retirement accounts, one couple has decided to “keep on keeping on.”
For the last seven years, Marty Roman and his wife Becky Boswell have been busy beautifying and protecting Kessler Park in east Toledo.
“I started cleaning up the park in 2001,” Roman, who is retired from Iron Workers Local 55, said. “We adopted the park officially in 2005.”
Roman has what could be called a natural affinity for the park. He is the grandson of Dooney and Gertrude Navarre. Peter Navarre was his great, great, great uncle.
He also decided to work on the park because of the “Kessler” name.
“I was born and raised next to Harry Kessler in Point Place,” Roman said. “He was my hockey coach in the Toledo Ohio Youth Hockey Association (TOYHA) league at the Toledo Sports Arena. Harry was my softball coach at Messiah Lutheran Church and he was also my Sunday School teacher.”
Since adopting the park, the couple has made sure to add plenty of color while cleaning away the old brush and trash that was once there.
“We have put a lot of perennials in the park instead of the annuals,” Boswell said. “We have planted canna lilies, sweet potato vine, red and yellow marigolds, day lilies, black eyed Susans, and shasta daisies.”
A variety of hosta, hollyhocks and balloon flowers can also be found in various plantings throughout the park.
Kessler Park, at one time, had a reputation of being filled with loiterers and trash. Since the couple has taken over, the problems have lessened each year, Boswell said.
“We have only had one issue in the park this year with people pulling plants,” Boswell said. “It gets better every year. We still have people who want to drink in the park but, when we mention it to them, they stop. We have a very polite sign in the park with the rules on it. No drinking, please don’t pick flowers, etc., is on the sign and for the most part, people follow the rules.
Also located in the park is the semi-iconic “Lucas County Power Station” arch which has served as the visual gateway to the eastside for years.
According to Don Monroe, former River East Economic Development Revitalization Director, River East fought to get the arch placed in what would be Harry Kessler Park in the 1970’s.
“It is a great piece of architecture in the Romanesque style,” Monroe, who is currently senior development specialist with the city, said. “We, River East, thought the arch would make a grand gateway coming into east Toledo and the park.”
Monroe said River East raised private funds to have the arch dismantled and it was stored, in pieces, for several years.
“We received a grant from the economic development administration to fund the building of the parking lots and the park as well as have the arch placed there,” Monroe explained. “Mayor Kessler was critical to the economic development in east Toledo.”
As an interesting side note, Kessler Park replaced the semi-notorious Kato’s, Monroe said.
“Let’s just say that Kato’s was one of our more well established bars,” Monroe said. “At the time, Ohio allowed those 18 and over to drink beer and we had many people coming from Michigan to Kato’s because it had easy access to the expressway.”
Over the years, the arch was beginning to look worn and the sandstone was actually crumbling in places.
According to Roman, the arch was placed in Kessler Park in 1978.
“It was the old power station arch which was on Water Street,” Roman said. “It was falling apart and needed some repair work. Don Monroe and Holly Gusky (Victorian Hilltop Coalition/Block Watch 422 B Leader) worked on getting the stone for it from a company in Iowa.”
The arch has been restored to its former glory.
“It is a piece of history,” Boswell added. “It has been around the city for a long time. It is nice that it could be saved and restored.”
Roman and Boswell have also been busy this spring planting the nine pots located on Main St.
“This really has been a community project,” Roman said. “The Toledo Food Market Steingraber and Associates, and Midwest Biomedical all donated towards the flowers in the park and in the pots.”
“John Truman and Barb Lane, with parks and recreation, brought flowers for us to use in the pots as well,” Boswell added. “Don and Holly got us help to get the arch fixed and the cannas were donated by our mail carrier John Santos. It really looks wonderful now.”