Crowded with residents and visitors each Sept. 11 and on more than one occasion to honor our fallen officers this year, Westerville's First Responders Park has hosted some of the most solemn and important events in the community.
The park was first dedicated in 2010 to honor the service and sacrifice of all first responders. Years ago, the city, with Westerville Parks & Recreation leading the effort, had a vision to expand the park for that purpose. Key to that vision was providing adequate space for the well-attended 9/11 Memorial Observance and reducing disruptive noise from the street.
We would never have dreamed of how the events of Feb. 10, 2018, would accelerate that vision.
Centerpiece to the park is a section of steel known as "C-40" from the north tower of the World Trade Center that fell on Sept. 11, 2001. It was dedicated at the park's opening on Sept. 6, 2010.
Later, on Oct. 9, 2011, the city dedicated "The Crossing," a sculpture to honor fallen firefighter David Theisen who died while battling a fire in Crooksville in 1998.
The Westerville Fire Fighters' Memorial organization, led by retired firefighter Tom Ullom, helped bring these elements to the park.
This year, as the community worked to cope with the tragic loss of Westerville police officers Tony Morelli and Eric Joering, plans were expedited to create a special memorial honoring their service and sacrifice.
The state of Ohio generously appropriated $500,000 in this fiscal year to be used as seed money for the project.
As the park expands to be inclusive of all first responders, concepts were created to provide a place for group or individual reflection. These concepts were created in cooperation with a committee including the Westerville Chiefs of Police and Fire, as well as other representatives from the city's police, fire, communications, chaplain and administrative divisions.
Memorials from around the globe were used to inspire the park in form and function, which are illustrated in renderings on the city website, westerville.org. Beyond expanding the park, a water feature gained the most consensus to create the sense of place and reflection desired for this site.
As we have witnessed since Feb. 10, many have donated their time and talent to the project thus far. Landscape architecture firms POD Design and McGill Smith Punshon provided design services free of charge to honor Morelli and Joering.
To supplement funding provided by the state, the Westerville Parks Foundation will soon begin fundraising to construct the expanded park.
Importantly, all elements of the existing park, including commemorative bricks, will be incorporated in some fashion into the redesigned space.
May there never be another name added to its walls.
City Notes is provided to ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion by the city of Westerville. David Collinsworth is the Westerville city manager.