FOSTORIA - The rumble of trains caused disruptions at Friday's dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly completed Fostoria Rail Park, but no one seemed to mind. More than 100 people, including rail fans, officials and local residents, gathered at the Iron Triangle Visitor Center and Viewing Area for the celebration.
The City of Fostoria, Fostoria Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau and the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society collaborated to make the park a reality. Located between South Poplar Street and Columbus Avenue, the park occupies "the Iron Triangle" where two CSX lines and one Norfolk Southern line intersect. A $300,000 USEPA grant enabled an old meat packing plant on the site to be razed in December 2010.
Whitta Construction of Fostoria was awarded the bid to build the park. Construction began this past April to install a viewing platform, lighting for night-time photography, heated restrooms and a paved parking area. The estimated cost of the project is $1.1 million with about 80 percent of the cost covered by an $815,760 grant the city received from the Ohio Department of Transportation in 2007.
In his remarks, Fostoria Mayor Eric Keckler thanked former mayor John Davoli, who was in office when the project was launched. More appreciation went to city engineer Dan Thornton; the engineering firm of Burgess & Niple of Columbus; Ohio Department of Transportation; and the Ohio Rail Development Commission. Whitta praised the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society for proposing the rail park and keeping the project moving forward.
He also read the names of all the sub-contractors who contributed to the rail park. Donovan O'Neil from the office of Ohio Auditor, Dave Yost, read a proclamation before Jim Roberts of Tiffin offered comments. The former Seneca County Sheriff is president of the rail preservation group. He singled out Ellen Gatrell of the Fostoria Rail Preservation Society and Theresa Lee of Fostoria City Council, who played important roles in getting the park built.
"This all started from a group, a hard-core group of six or seven people that came up with an idea, and they wouldn't let loose of the idea. They got it done," Roberts said. "This is going to be a bright spot for the city of Fostoria."
Coming back to the microphone, Keckler said law director Timothy Hoover also worked to get everything in order. The park is to be a marketing tool for the city to bring in tourism dollars. Roberts cut the ribbon and guests released red, white and blue balloons to conclude the ceremony. A reception followed at 125 S. Main Street.
Gatrell spoke to reporters before heading to the reception. In a question about "Phase II" for the park, she said the rail preservation society would need to save "lots of money" before any expansion could be done.
"We would love to have a tower on the B&O side ... because to have a three-story tower over there would be nice to have some height to watch trains and see all the way to the diamond - the B&O / Nickel Plate diamond," Gatrell said.
The group has its own project in the works to move the LE&W depot. FRPS also has purchased a LE&W / NKP caboose from a former amusement park with plans to restore it. The wooden caboose traveled through Fostoria for years on the LE&W line before it was retired.
Attending the park opening was Ron Breniser, a rail fan from Goshen, Ind. He said the Whippy Dip and Dell's Restaurant are places in Fostoria he likes to patronize. Fostoria has become his "second home."