By Sean V. Lehosit
Several generations have climbed the concrete alphabet at Westgate Park, but one letter has been missing since destroyed by a runaway car years ago.
Designs are underway which could resurrect the long-lost letter B.
“The letters were originally outside at Westland Mall and were moved to the park when they enclosed the mall. So the adults today remember the times they played on those very letters as kids,” said Shawn Maddox, Westgate Neighbors Association outgoing vice president.
Earlier this year, residents Tom Carrier and Joe Lamothe collaborated on a plan to restore the concrete letter. They received a go ahead from the city of Columbus, but then the idea expanded.
“The idea now is to replace the B and the sidewalk, and fill the center with something like pea gravel and add a few small toys young kids can play with like small teeter-totters or little cranes for picking up and dumping gravel in toddler play areas,” Carrier said.
This project testifies to the character of the Westgate community, according to Maddox. Residents want to ensure their children have an opportunity to share the same experiences.
Carrier said the park was the center of his universe as a kid. There was no internet, cell phones or tablets, but they always had Westgate Park. Objects like the concrete letters hold nostalgic importance to residents, because they never change and can connect visitors to the past.
“My grandfather sat under the shade that the same tree provides to my kids. We share a lot of the same ground… My daughter, Jessica, now teaches AP high school chemistry in Jeju Island of South Korea, but this A is still here, holding a memory,” he said.
Carrier said he got involved because he felt residents are responsible for taking care of their park, not just waiting for the city to fix things, especially when many parks in Columbus are in need of resources.
“We have a responsibility to help take care of and restore things for the young kids growing up in the neighborhood, who should have the same chance to play in the park we had,” he said.
The labor and excavation would be done by volunteers, according to Carrier, but they are in need of funding. Estimates for the concrete B, an additional play area and the cost of materials are not yet determined. More information will be announced in coming months.
“Support of the project financially is going to be the key component. We will have to come up with a place where people can contribute to it where they know every penny of their donation will go toward the materials used to do this project,” Carrier said.