The city of Canal Winchester hopes a local firm will help generate private funding for its planned 90-acre multipurpose McGill Park.
However, finding financial supporters – whether they be local businesses, banks or individuals – will take time since the multimillion-dollar park right now can only be visualized in conceptual drawings, said Connie Spruill, whose company, Intentional Woman Online LLC, is leading the effort.
So far, crews have been completing early design work, including grading and utility work such as drainage on the land along Lithopolis-Winchester Road the city purchased from Kathleen McGill in 2017 for more than $775,000.
"The community will buy into it when they see the progress," Spruill said. "Right now, the park to them is just pictures."
Spruill and two others on her team, which has consulting, fundraising, digital marketing and grant-writing experience, have been paid $5,000 monthly for approximately a year through a consultant contract, city Finance Director Amanda Jackson said.
Spruill's team has designed a website for the park, cwmcgillpark.com.
So far, the city has received a $500,000 pledge from the Peggy L. Wood Foundation and a $5,000 donation from TS Tech Americas Inc. However, Jackson said the funding was secured by Mayor Mike Ebert before hiring Intentional Woman Online.
"While it might look like nothing's happening, we're constantly looking for leads," said Spruill, who also is an at-large board member of Destination: Canal Winchester, a not-for-profit economic development organization that provides travel and tourism promotions for the city.
No donation is too small, she said. For example, a company or individual might want to contribute toward painting new walking trails or purchasing a park bench. The city also hopes to secure funding through naming rights.
"There are in-kind or money donations or grants," Spruill said.
The city has been pursuing both private funding and grants from a variety of sources. Jackson said Canal Winchester also "will be paying cash where we are able, as well as issuing debt to fund the build out of the park."
More recently, the city applied for a federal land and conservation grant from the National Park Service, which could provide as much as $500,000.
The grant the city is seeking is administered through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The program provides up to 50 percent reimbursement assistance and has awarded more than $152 million to projects in Ohio since its inception in 1965, according to information from ODNR.
"The park is going to be something that will happen in phases, but hopefully, this will be in rapid succession and not strung out over years, maybe a couple years to get it completely done," City Council President Bruce Jarvis said.
Public Works Director Matt Peoples has said initial investment in McGill Park could be $2 million, with funding for a main roadway and parking, four soccer fields, a shelter house and a large natural play area.
The complete plan calls for seven full-size soccer fields, three half-size soccer fields, plus baseball and softball fields. An event center and amphitheater also are part of the site layout prepared by OHM Advisors, which developed a guide for the future of Canal Winchester's parks system.