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30th Anniversary of the Friends of Goodale Park
The early years

by Pat Lewis
May/June 2017 Issue

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Friends of Goodale Park receives a Neighborhood Partnership Grant from
The Columbus Foundation in 1997 to restore the caretaker’s residence. (LtoR)
Councilman Michael Coleman, Beth Vogt, Norm Dolder, Pat Lewis, and Kent Mills.
© Photo | Michael A. Foley, 1997


In the 1980s, two events influenced the formation of the Friends of Goodale Park and the establishment of an excellent on-going public-private relationship with the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

The first of these took place in 1984. People began to notice train tracks being laid in the northeast quadrant of the park. An anonymous donor had donated a replica of a 19th-century railroad train and Mel Dodge (former director of Columbus Recreation and Parks Department) decided Goodale Park would be a great location for it. Some of the neighbors thought it would be the perfect place for their kids to play. The Victorian Village Commission was more practical and thought in terms of noise, maintenance, and liability. Safety was also a concern since engineers were to be volunteers. Arguments broke out in the neighborhood. Commission meetings were huge and chaotic. Ultimately, those against the train won and the tracks were removed. Dodge admitted he should have asked the neighbors first, but in those days, there was no Friends of Goodale Park. This raised awareness for the need of an organization that could provide stewardship for the park.

The event that finally initiated the founding of Friends of Goodale Park took place in 1987. A huge windstorm felled numerous trees throughout the park. Friends of Goodale Park was then formed and Norm Dolder was named president. It was decided to have one tree of every species that would thrive in this zone in the park. All the severely damaged trees were replaced with new ones. Today Goodale Park contains 200 species of trees, with some species having multiple varieties.

An early Friends project was the design and construction of a gazebo/bandstand so the park could stage music. Fundraisers were held and proposals were written. With financial help from the Neighborhood Partnership Program of The Columbus Foundation, a beautiful gazebo was erected in 1991 near the lake that is still being used today for concerts and weddings.

One memorable event during this period was the annual meeting of band organ (aka calliope) owners in Goodale Park. About
a dozen beautiful calliopes were set up throughout the park to play their unique sounds – a most memorable day!

The park was dark in the early days. Again, with the help of The Columbus Foundation and neighborhood fundraisers, period lighting was installed throughout the park along with new benches and ornate iron trash cans. To help defray the cost of the benches, they were sold to individuals who wanted to put a plaque on them to memorialize their loved ones. Commemorative benches can still be purchased today.
A place was needed to hold the many neighborhood meetings. A three-bedroom house attached to the north side of the shelterhouse had been vacant for years. In the early days of the park, the caretaker and his family lived in the house and took care of the park. It would be a perfect place for the meetings if fixed up. Again, fundraisers were held and proposals were written.

Funds from The Columbus Foundation helped with the external renovation – new sidewalks, an iron fence to replace the existing chain link fence, a beautiful urn, and a custom-made chandelier for the front porch with matching sconces on the side of the building. The Reinberger Foundation provided funds for interior renovation including restoring woodwork, addition of a kitchen and powder room, new light fixtures, and paint, wallpaper, and carpeting.

Norm Dolder’s first act as president was to install the gazebo by the lake with funds from the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks and a grant from The Columbus Foundation. The Friends next installed Victorian-style lighting fixtures and seating in the park and restored the Goodale Park caretaker’s residence attached to the shelter house.

Early in the FGP history, the Annual Holiday Gala commenced. Held in a private residence lavishly decorated for the holidays, the gala kicked off the holiday season early in December. Neighborhood restaurants donated food and beverage, a silent auction was held, and people were recognized who had made a significant contribution to the park. The Holiday Gala continues to this day.

It was decided the park needed more color. A large magnolia grove was planted which produced pink, yellow, and rose-colored magnolia trees in the spring. Flower beds were created throughout the park, which were planted and maintained by volunteers.

The year 2001 was the park’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. Historic pictures were displayed in the shelter house, artists displayed their work in the courtyard, bands entertained from the gazebo, and chairs and tables were set up in the yard near the shelter house for an ice cream social.

Stay tuned for a more recent history of the Friends of Goodale Park in the Fall issue of the Gazette. The story of the Friends of Goodale Park continues this summer with a booth at the Community Festival. The popular Walks and Talks are on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m. These include two tree tours. Volunteer workdays are scheduled throughout the summer. See the website for more details.

Thurs., June 1, 2017 at 7 - 9 PM

Walk through Goodale Park with park historian Terry Sherburn. He will talk about park history and display placards bearing historic photos of the Goodale Park to allow the group to compare then and now images with the way it looks today. This event is free, but space is limited. Please RSVP at

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