Marietta’s Buckeye Park

A recent sunny afternoon lured Marietta residents Josh Cross and friends Ashley Lewis and Amanda Offenberger to the pond at Buckeye Park where the trio found a shady spot along the shoreline.

“It’s kind of a lazy day for us, so we decided to do some fishing,” Cross said. “It’s a nice park and seems to be relatively well-kept.”

The pond, stocked and maintained by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is one of the main attractions at Buckeye Park, which also includes basketball courts, two lighted softball fields, an archery range, playground and picnic facilities.

“The park gets a lot of use, but it’s in great shape and is probably my favorite of all the city parks,” said Tom Kunz, Marietta’s public facilities superintendent.

He said city crews work to keep the park maintained all season.

“Just last week a new metal roof was put on one of the ball field dugouts after high winds damaged the old roofing,” Kunz said. “And our utilities maintenance department replaced all of the field lights with new energy-efficient bulbs.”

He said the crews also recently repaired and added a railing to a set of steps that provide pedestrian access to the park from Ingleside Avenue, and there are plans to construct a kiosk near the park’s picnic shelter where community events and other information can be posted.

Another ball fields upgrade, requested by the Marietta Softball Association, is the raising of the field light poles so that players are not blinded by the lights when someone hits a high pop-up ball.

City council appropriated $15,200 for that and other field lighting improvements this year.

The association works closely with the city to keep the softball facilities well-maintained, including mowing the fields.

“We have a good relationship. The softball association helps a lot-if not for them those fields wouldn’t look nearly as good,” said Susan Joyce, the city’s recreation clerk.

In addition to the ball fields, the basketball courts get a workout at Buckeye Park during the summer months, thanks to Marietta’s summer youth basketball program that just kicked off its fifth season Monday.

“We have 70 kids signed up this year,” Joyce said. “But we hold other events at the park, too. Our annual fishing derby brought more than 60 kids to Buckeye Park, and in August we’ll have a Youth Outdoors Day, something we started a couple of years ago with Ohio DNR.”

The purpose of that event is to give youngsters a chance to learn about outdoor activities like fishing, archery and firearm safety with a BB rifle range. Participants will also be introduced to some wildlife during the outdoors day.

Joyce said the public picnic facilities at the park include a large shelter that can be reserved for various gatherings for a fee of $25 for three hours’ use.

Funding for the park maintenance comes out of the city’s lands, buildings and parks account, and new equipment or major upgrades are usually funded from various grants, she said.

The archery range, for example, was installed by city crews, but funded with an Ohio DNR grant about three years ago, Joyce said, adding that Community Development Block Grant monies have also been used for park upgrades in the past.

Buckeye Park is lacking at least one important amenity-permanent public restrooms. Currently the city provides portable toilets at the ball fields and near the picnic shelter and playground areas.

That’s been a longtime concern for former Marietta councilman Sam Gwinn, who’s known by some as the “grandpa of Buckeye Park” as he still keeps a close eye on the facilities there.

“This is probably the most used park in town, but one of the main things needed there is restrooms,” he said.

During his time on council Gwinn had a hand in obtaining many of the park’s upgrades, including new playground equipment, the basketball courts and lighting, and he helped initiate plans to build the archery range.

“The park is in pretty good shape, and when first developed in the 1970s there were restrooms built, but they were not kept up over the years so we brought in portable toilets,” he said.

As a councilman Gwinn tried to have permanent restrooms constructed at the park, but the project hit a snag because Buckeye Park lies within the 100-year floodplain, and the restrooms would have required a special design to meet Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain construction regulations.

“The price would have been well over $100,000,” he said. “That’s big money, but then you have to consider that it would be worth the effort. The portable toilets cost money every year. And the city has permanent restrooms at Indian Acres Park, which is also located in a floodplain. I think we can do better.”