Construction set to begin in July on downtown memorial park


Photo courtesy of Dan Smith Community Park website

Chelsea Graff

A small park will be built between Bricco’s and Bar 145 in downtown Kent to honor late economic development director Dan Smith, who was instrumental in the transformation and revitalization of the city’s business and entertainment district.

“‘No’ wasn’t in Dan’s vocabulary,” said Lori Wemhoff, executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce. “Dan’s drive and sense of humor made him not only a great person to work with, but a friend. I truly miss him.”

Smith died of glioblastoma brain cancer last July. Kent City Council approved the Dan Smith Community Park last October, and fundraising began in March.

The Burbick Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, led the fundraising efforts. The foundation’s goal was to raise $250,000.

Currently, about $257,000 has been donated for the park.

Donors include the City of Kent, The Burbick Foundation, Hometown Bank, AMETEK, Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, Portage Community Bank, Main Street Kent and Kent State. The university’s donation of $20,000 pushed the donations over the $250,000 goal.

“I had no reservations whatsoever that the goal of $250,000 would be met,” Wemhoff said. “That’s how much Dan meant to people.”

Many of the components that will be in the park are hobbies and passions of Smith’s, said Michelle Hartman, vice president of The Burbick Foundation.

“We wanted to have elements that were important to Dan that will be represented in the park,” she said.

Ron Burbick, president of The Burbick Foundation, said there will be a stage because Smith loved music and was in a local band called the Flip Flops. Connect Four and cornhole will be included because he enjoyed playing games with his daughters. There will also be a playground area with a train and slide.

“He loved model trains,” Burbick said. “He loved rock and roll and played in a rock and roll band, and he was just there for anyone who needed him.”

Hartman said the centerpiece of the park will be a railroad spike that Smith drove into a pail of dirt before he died.

Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said the park is a place for students, community members and families to gather and relax in a space honoring a vital player in Kent’s transformation.

A groundbreaking ceremony will take place on July 15, eight days shy of the anniversary of Smith’s death.

The park is projected to be finished by late fall.

Contact Chelsea Graff at [email protected].