Residents wondering when Canal Winchester's McGill Park will play host to its first soccer match or shelter-house gathering will have to wait a little longer.

Planning for the 90-acre multipurpose park along Lithopolis-Winchester Road remains on hold as the city awaits final word on two grant applications totaling nearly $1 million.

"We can't start a thing until we get the awards," Mayor Mike Ebert said. "We can't even have plans drawn up. We're just stuck and (have) nowhere to go."

The city learned it has received conditional approval for a federal land and conservation grant from the National Park Service, which would provide as much as $500,000, but city public-service director Matt Peoples said the funding has yet to be awarded.

The city also is awaiting word from the state on a $450,000 Clean Ohio Trails Fund grant that would connect the park to an area along Walnut Creek and all the way to Washington Street to the covered bridge.

"The feds and the state have a contract that they're working out ... to distribute the funds, and it's under legal review," Peoples said of the land and conservation grant. "So they're telling us, 'Yes, we were approved, but, no, you can't move forward because the contracts aren't in place.' "

Thus far, crews have completed some early design work, including grading and utility work, such as drainage, on the land that the city purchased from Kathleen McGill in 2017 for more than $775,000.

"We have a proposal for an engineering portion of it, but we're hesitant to go forward with that until we hear," Peoples said.

The first part of the proposed three-phase project includes constructing a main access drive, four soccer fields, a three-season shelter house and a natural playground area.

The complete plan, with an estimated price tag of nearly $7 million, calls for seven full-size soccer fields and three half-size soccer fields, plus baseball and softball fields. An event center and amphitheater also are part of the site layout prepared by Columbus-based OHM Advisors, which developed a guide for the future of Canal Winchester's parks system.

OHM started its work in July 2017. 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 top request to emerge from the process was for a multipurpose park.

Along with grant funding, the city hopes to receive private donations.

The city hired Connie Spruill of Intentional Women Online LCC, which has consulting, fundraising, digital marketing and grant-writing experience, to help secure private donations or naming rights.

Spruill's team, which was paid $5,000 per month for approximately a year, also designed a website for the park, cwmcgillpark.com.

Her work has been put on hold, Ebert said.

"We got to a point where people, especially the bigger donors, wanted to know, 'What's this shelter house going to look like?' or 'What's this playground going to look like?'" Ebert said. "We couldn't tell them that because we don't have plans yet, only conceptual."

The biggest donation thus far is $500,000 from the Peggy L. Wood Foundation.

Although Peoples wouldn't speculate on a completion date for the park, he said work on the soccer fields could start next fall.

"There is quite a bit of dirt to move and to get those soccer fields seeded," he said. "We want to make sure the grass takes hold. We'd like to wait three growing seasons, but I don't know if we will be able to hold on that long. There's quite a need for field space."

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