Toledo Glass City Metropark
Toledo earned the nickname “Glass City” in the late 1800s, when it grew into a major manufacturer of glass, along with many other industries. Toledo’s east side has long been its manufacturing hub, especially along the Maumee River that flows into Lake Erie. As the region’s economy has evolved, the regional parks system, Metroparks Toledo, acquired some of these post-industrial sites to restore their natural systems, spur regional economic redevelopment, and improve quality of life by providing more parks in the downtown area.
The park reflects the city’s significant industrial heritage while reclaiming a broad stretch of riverfront for Toledo residents and visitors. After considerable cleanup and restoration efforts, the 70-acre park brings a wealth of recreational assets and cultural touchstones to the city. A key link in an ambitious east riverfront master plan also prepared by SmithGroup, Glass City Metropark literally and figuratively connects Toledo back to its waterfront, including a 7-mile loop of the Glass City Riverwalk, connecting the community to the river and its adjacent districts.
Home to a coal-fired power plant for nearly a century, much of the site was covered in fly ash several feet deep, requiring restoration on more than 50 acres before the soils could support natural plantings. Over time, the project will reestablish more than 27 acres of upland grasses, 17 acres of forest and 3,200 feet of shoreline habitat, naturalizing 80 percent of the park. The revitalized metro park will serve as a haven for many migratory and nesting birds, mammals, and insects including the monarch butterfly and eastern bumble bee. Integrated into the new park are a series of terraced natural stormwater basins that collect, detain, and treat stormwater runoff from the park and an adjacent new residential development. On overlooks and trails, visitors can experience and learn about five native habitats, which flow together to once again, form a dynamic riverine landscape.
Built amenities account for 20 percent of the park, supporting a diverse array of recreational pursuits and interests that emerged from community engagement efforts. The choices reflect a desire for water, winter, and discovery play—a robust play experience distributed throughput the park and focused on creating a more challenging play experience than typical playgrounds.
A former marina was transformed into a kayak cove for launching and lessons. Phase II adds additional water access points, campground, water play area that interprets the Maumee River watershed, and ice-skating pond connected to The Ribbon—a 1,000-foot ice skating loop that is the first of its kind in the region. During warmer months, The Ribbon will serve as a multi-purpose trail connecting park goers to various amenity spaces.
Market Hall, a commercial space that includes a fast-casual restaurant and beer garden. The overarching design was inspired by a forest tree canopy with a strong connection between the interior and exterior. An expansive window wall with bird safe glass provides park, river, and city views to patrons inside Market Hall, while four integrated overhead doors allow the capacity to open in warmer months. The outdoor seating space is designed as an extension from inside Market Hall to the park's plaza and landscape. In addition to Market Hall, cabanas are available to rent year-round for skating and other seasonal activities. Seating 6-8 people with a variety of seating options and fire bowl, the cabanas have large glass windows facing the river and a custom tree branch pattern on the glass, emphasizing the forest canopy-like design.
The wide range of activities connect visitors with nature, encourage healthy lifestyles, interpret the region’s heritage, and contribute to the overall quality of life in Toledo. Metroparks Toledo worked with both local and national artists as well as the Art Commission of Greater Toledo to create public art unique to Glass City. The art is designed to blend the parks' past industrial history with a future focused on unity, community, and sustainability. On a site that once produced electricity, Glass City Metropark brings a new kind of energy to East Toledo and the banks of the Maumee River.