The Toledo City Council has voted to temporarily close Kemp Olson Memorial Park as of Nov. 8 due to concerns winter storms could cause unsafe trees and limbs to fall.
Discussed during the council's Nov. 3 meeting, officials decided the park should be closed for all uses in light of the potential hazards, stating the closure will begin after the Lewis County Veterans Day Parade concludes this Saturday afternoon.
"My big concern is public safety," said Public Works Superintendent Craig McCown to the council. "I don't want anyone walking in there or driving in there when it's blowing bad."
McCown said he had sought the advice of two different arborists in regard to potentially-dangerous trees on city property and was told multiple trees at the park pose a threat until they are trimmed or cut down, stating he would not have funding in his budget to do so until next year.
"[The term] widow-maker was brought up quite a bit," he said of the inspection, noting the severity of some problem trees in the park.
When voting to close the park, the council did so with the expectation the Park Board would review their decision and come up with a recommendation for a longer-term solution, which the council would then consider at an upcoming meeting. (The next scheduled meeting of the Park Board is on Nov. 12, and a recommendation from the board could be considered by the council as soon as their Nov. 17 meeting.)
When the possibility was discussed the park could remain open when the weather is clear, at least to foot traffic and day-users, officials stated this would be impractical given how Northwest weather is typically windy and rainy during the wintertime, with McCown adding he feels even small levels of wind or rain could make the trees dangerous.
Mayor Jerry Pratt noted the park has been regularly closed to vehicle traffic during the fall and winter to prevent tire tracks from being left in the wet terrain, though not as a matter of policy but rather at the discretion of the council.
It was also noted a complete closure would affect Park Caretaker Ric Kindle's ability to remain on-site, with McCown stating he understands Kindle would be prepared to reside elsewhere during the closure, if need be.