It's been 20 years since the city and area residents helped draft a plan that turned Schiller Park from a neglected swath of public space to today's lush community focal point.

It's been 20 years since the city and area residents helped draft a plan that turned Schiller Park from a neglected swath of public space to today's lush community focal point.

In 1988, Friends of Schiller Park and the city commissioned The Schiller Park Master Plan.

"What the master plan did, it really put into perspective what the park needed," said Connie Swain, who helped found Friends of Schiller Park. "It made it possible for us to get all the things we needed for the park."

Some of the improvements that have been made over the years included rehabbing the statue of German poet Friedrich von Schiller, adding lights in the area, work on the pond, restoring a path and building a stage for Actors' Theatre.

In addition, the plan led the Umbrella Girl statue, which was based on a similar statue that was once at the park, being erected.

Still, the park's master plan got its start on a less grandiose scale. A group of local parents wanted to spruce up a park playground for their children.

"We became very concerned about the playground equipment," Swain said, describing a rundown playground with aging equipment and mud puddles.

One success led to another and a small grassroots campaign began. From there the group turned toward rehabilitating the entire park and restoring it to its once majestic look.

Janet Druen, also a founder of Friends of Schiller Park, said one of the master plan's goals was to bring the park back inline with the surrounding area.

At one point Columbus underwent an urban renewal project, which Druen said, sapped some of what made the park unique.

"It had lost the feel of the rest of the environment," Druen said.

The plan was created to reflect portions of the park that, through the years, had been removed.

"It just put some of the ascetic history back," Druen said. "The significance of the master plan is that it totally changed the look and feel of the park, it became a sanctuary, a haven."

Katharine Moore, executive director for the German Village Society, said the master plan acts as a map for how the park should look.

"The problem with a 23 acre park is lots and lots of people come up with ideas for it that would be fun, so you need a filter," Moore said.

Moore added that the plan not only restored the park, but also gave the society a template for other projects such as a plan for Third Street.

"When you look at Third Street it really needs attention but all you have to do is look at Schiller Park and think this could be night and day," Moore explained. "One thing that is important is this is an example of an outcome when there is enough resources."

dcross@thisweeknews.com