Mike Walker remembers his trips to Westerville city parks as a young boy.

Every Sunday, his family would gather at a park shelter house and cook eggs and bacon on the grill, and he would climb on the monkey bars. It was a ritual for many families.

"That park was important to the community," he said. "It was the gathering spot, and I have so many memories of going there as a 7- or 8-year-old boy. It was the place to be."

Now a Canal Winchester City Council member, White envisions McGill Park as that gathering spot or destination venue for city residents and other central Ohioans.

Walker and other city leaders are working to finalize plans and cost estimates for the 90 acres along Lithopolis-Winchester Road that the city purchased from Kathleen McGill last year for more than $775,000. Plans are to develop the property into a multipurpose park -- the top request to emerge from a months-long process led by Columbus-based OHM Advisors as part of developing an overall parks master plan for Canal Winchester.

OHM started its work last July. The company gathered information from 1,000 park-users and residents, held several working-group meetings, conducted site assessments, interviewed stakeholders and administered online and print surveys.

The company presented its proposals for the city's parks -- including plans for McGill Park -- at a public meeting in February.

Council President Bruce Jarvis called the McGill Park plans "a 1,000-foot view."

What he, Walker, Haire, Mayor Michael Ebert, Finance Director Amanda Jackson, Construction Services Manager Bill Sims and Public Works Director Matt Peoples are working on now, Jarvis said, "is more of a 500-foot view."

Examining costs

"We're trying to get to a point where we can apply cost estimates to various features and improvements," he said.

Once that's done, the list of costs connected to separate elements of the proposal will be sent to City Council later this year. After that, officials will have to decide how to finance the project.

Jarvis was adamant about one thing: A tax levy to pay for park improvements "is not in the cards."

Partial funding could come through sponsorships and naming rights, he said.

"This is not something the city is looking to finance in total but in a partnership with local businesses and individuals," Jarvis said.

"One of the roles of local government is to provide amenities for the residents. When I was campaigning, I felt like that was something that wasn't getting enough attention."

Work in 3 phases

The plan for McGill Park is to devise short-, medium- and long-term goals for developing the space.

A site layout map prepared by OHM Advisors as part of the parks master plan proposes developing McGill Park in three phases:

* The first phase would include construction of a dog park, a pedestrian bridge, a creek trail and overlook, an asphalt multiuse trail, baseball fields and shelter, event space/shelter, a maintenance building, a playground, a parking area with 227 spaces, a parking drop-off area, restroom/concession facility, tennis/pickleball courts, soccer fields and an additional parking spur with 146 spaces.

* Phase 2 work would include a vehicular bridge, secondary parking with 209 spaces, a parking drop-off, a kayak/canoe launch, another multiuse asphalt trail, a creek overlook, shelter, maintenance building, baseball field and practice field and soccer fields.

* Phase 3 plans call for an extended entry drive into the park, an event center and overlook, space for secondary events and an outdoor amphitheater.

"What OHM has designed is truly amazing," Walker said. "We truly are a city that's a destination, and I think this park will only enhance that."

The centerpiece of McGill Park would be an event center and amphitheater for weddings and other gatherings.

Agricultural allusions

Proposed designs include "a nod to Canal Winchester's agricultural past," Jarvis said, with the event center resembling a barn. The facility would have views of Walnut Creek. Silos would provide viewing locations for announcers at sporting events.

City officials have been evaluating all of Canal Winchester's 225 acres of public parkland for maintenance and improvements.

The parks master plan prepared by OHM Advisors includes proposals for other public spaces, including the Francis Steube Community Center, the municipal swimming pool, Westchester Park, Hanners Park, Stradley Park, Guiler Park, Howe Pond, Kelley Preserve, Pfeifer Park, Walnut Creek Park and Busey Road Park, plus numerous bike paths and trails.