Central Ohio’s Hidden Gem
It was a beautiful, hot Ohio July 4th when, in 2015, Ariel-Foundation Park was host to more than 10,000 guests on its opening day. Visitors climbed Rastin Observation Tower, enjoyed the cool shade with a walk in The Woods, canoed and kayaked on three lakes, fished from the shore, and reveled in a concert and fireworks display. A new, 250-acre spectacular gem had been shaped in central Ohio – one that would continue to be polished and honed to shine brightly for generations to come.
Its creation was 15 years in the making – a vision of Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis as well as other community leaders. Built on old gravel pits and the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass Works #11 Factory site, Ariel-Foundation Park rose from the ground slowly, a few acres at a time. Largely abandoned since the sheet glass plant closed its doors in 1976, the site was as unsafe as it was unsightly.
With multiple grants from The Ariel Foundation, the private foundation of Ariel Corporation’s CEO and president, a generous investment from the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon & Knox County, and generous donations from many community leaders, repurposing of this former industrial site has taken place. Mount Vernon-based Ariel Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of separable reciprocating gas compressors, has played an integral role in turning downtown Mount Vernon and the surrounding area into a thriving downtown community.
At the park, a brilliant red bridge, a large event center, terraced landscaping, and the spiral staircase around the smokestack which became Rastin Observation Tower are enjoyed daily, along with a small museum on location meant to honor the site’s industrial heritage.
Park programming, supported by numerous large and small businesses in Knox County, has developed to include summer concert and movie series; physical fitness activities like Tai Chi, Zumba®, and yoga; youth art classes and a variety of family activities. It is used by many on a daily basis as a place of tranquility to enjoy a quiet lunch, to swing with a loved one while watching the sunset, or to make a commitment to living healthier by walking and exercising.
Local resident Angie Chapman and her husband started walking the park 3-5 times every week in April of 2018. Together, they have lost more than 70 pounds between them, all while enjoying the stunning and peaceful park environment. They are just one of the many families that visit the park almost daily for recreation and time spent together. The park’s downtown location, adjacent to two Ohio bike trails, means easy access for central Ohioans.
Now, with the recent addition of a nature programs coordinator, Ariel-Foundation Park looks forward to offering water sports like canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding, along with the necessary safety courses.
Ariel-Foundation Park programming grows with each passing year, thanks to numerous community partnerships and business supporters. It’s an exciting place to be!