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  • Jordan D. Smith

Toan Park Overhaul Celebrated

Under an overcast sky marked by drizzle, the Portland community, donors and leaders gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony for the overhauled Toan Park. Waxing philosophical, Mayor Jim Barnes wryly mused that he’d like to know what Portlanders 100 years will think of not only the park but what we were thinking having a ribbon-cutting for a park featuring a splash pad in October. Despite the weather, caution tape on yet-to-be-finished details the atmosphere was jubilant as the community commemorated the completion of this long-standing project.

Ground broke on the project in late July after many setbacks in supply and labor shortages due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A little less than three months later the renovated park features a splash pad, new seating, a river overlook, flagpole, upgraded landscaping, riverbank reinforcement, and a new picnic pavilion. Some features remain to be finished including the outdoor fireplace, swings, rubber safety surfaces around play equipment, and shade awnings. Those finishing touches should be completed in the coming weeks according to Downtown Development Authority Director Tina Conner Wellman. “It is a challenging time to construct projects like this that have a lot of pieces and parts, each with longer than usual lead times,” said Jon Moxey, F&V’s engineer, and project manager. “In the end, good communication with the entire project team kept things that were within our control on schedule and on budget.” Considering that the project has been in the making since 2014, a few weeks isn’t much of a wait.

The project cost nearly $700,000 funded by a combination of Downtown Development Authority tax capture revenue, community contributions, and in-kind donations. That fundraising effort launched in early 2021 had an initial goal of $100,000 which was fur exceeded, collecting $147,713 in cash and pledges from individuals and businesses plus $58,000 in in kind labor and material donations toward the project. “The generosity of Portland individuals and organizations far and wide was both unexpected and encouraging,” Conner Wellman added. “Each and every penny has been put to good use.”

Mayor Barnes remarked that he hopes the enhanced park will bring residents and visitors to the downtown to enjoy the park and river walk. “I’m looking forward to seeing the park become a gathering place where residents and visitors of all ages can play or just sit and enjoy the riverfront,” Barnes said. “Everyone is within walking distance of great places to eat, partake in a craft beer, experience a unique wine, enjoy a great cup of coffee, or savor some homemade ice cream.” City Manager Tutt Gorman pointed out that the new park will benefit the residents but set Portland apart saying, “when completed, Toan Park will become the flagship park for our entire City and a model for other communities to follow.”

“Portland did what it is recognized for and most proud of – people and businesses came together to create something exciting, lasting and better for all,” Conner Wellman noted. “While every feature isn’t fully ready and tuned in, we are happily enjoying a moment today and celebrating a beautiful place to gather and pause to take in what it means to be a part of Portland MI.” After remarks from local leaders involved in the project, the ribbon was cut officially opening the park. And then a child in attendance was randomly chosen to have the honor of turning on the splash pad for the first time. The highlight of the event by far was seeing the reaction of the kids (and some adults) who ran through the spraying water to mark the occasion.

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