“Before any project becomes a reality it must exist in the mind of someone,” stated George H. Irvin, one of the seven founders of Orr Park.
Coming Soon signage has been placed at the corner of W High and Ella depicting plans for the Orr Park Gateway. The property, currently owned by Orrville Development Foundation (ODF), Orrville City Schools and the City of Orrville, will soon be developed into a new addition to Orr Park.
“There have been some hints given to the public about the Orr Park Gateway project, but the full scope has not been revealed until now,” stated Lori Reinbolt, Interim Executive Director, ODF. “We are very excited to share our vision for this property with the community.”
In the spring of 2019, the idea for the Orr Park Gateway project started to emerge among the ODF Board of Directors following receipt of a monetary donation to purchase the former Parkview Lanes Bowling Alley property at the corner of W High and Hall to be used to enhance Orr Park. The building was demolished in August, 2019 and the site was transitioned into green space.
The creation of green space improved the property, but that was only the first step. The ODF formed a planning committee with adjoining property owners, City of Orrville and Orrville City Schools to expand the vision for the entire 7 acre property.
The Wayne County Community Foundation (WCCF) awarded the Orrville Development Foundation a generous grant from the Carl E. Congdon, Jr. and Susanna Congdon McIntyre Memorial Fund to assist with the construction of walkways, landscaping, and a special entrance feature.
WCCF Executive Director, Sara Patton, commented: “It is fitting that the grant for this project came from the Congdon Fund, because Carl Congdon was the great-great-grandson of Judge Smith Orr, founder of the City of Orrville, for whom the park is named. In addition, Carl’s mother Maud and her sister, Charlotte Chamberlin, donated the initial 15 acres of park land in 1921.”
Maud and Charlotte were the great granddaughters of Smith Orr, the original owner of the land where Orr Park is located.
The vision for the project will include a paved walkway with benches and historical markers to recognize the founders of Orr Park, Pickle Ball Courts and a new parking lot near the existing ball fields. Funding for these elements has been secured and construction will be seen over the coming months.
“The project has presented a unique opportunity to enhance and expand one of Orrville’s quality features – a central park,” remarked Mark Zook, chair of the Orr Park Gateway Planning Committee. “What makes the project unique is that we are able to actually add acreage to the park that Orrville has built around since 1930 and to honor the original park founders. It’s been a privilege to be part of the collaboration effort between the city, the schools, and Orrville Development Foundation.”
Kyle Zook, an architect working in Cleveland who happens to be a 2011 graduate of Orrville High School, has assisted the planning committee with project design.
“Kyle is incredibly talented,” stated Reinbolt. “We would not have been able to develop such a special space without his vision and expertise. He has given Orrville a very special gift.”
The second phase of development may include restroom facilities near the ball fields, a water spray zone and entertainment pavilion. Funding has been applied for but not yet secured for phase two.
"This project has been a bright spot in a challenging year for everyone,” remarked CJ Handwerk, Orrville City Councilman. “We are excited to increase parking and add an additional dimension to our park with the pickleball court. I encourage all of our citizens to take the Parks and Rec survey found on the City website."
It has been 90 years since the residents of Orrville gathered for the dedication of Orr Park on July 25, 1930. Records of the event state that the older residents considered the occasion the greatest day of its kind in Orrville history. An estimated 10,000 people came form near and far to celebrate.
Plans for the dedication of the new Orr Park Gateway have not yet been determined, but the hope is to hold a special celebration for the completion of phase one in the summer of 2021.