Mother Gooseland. Just saying the name triggers fond memories for many Canton residents, both past and present. City and county park officials would like to resurrect the overgrown property that runs along a bike trail. Possibilities include a traditionally-style park with an amphitheater or a dog park. Either project hinges on funding.
Mother Gooseland Park slumbers in the shadows of a highway ramp and the well-traveled Tuscarawas Street W.
After its closure long ago, the former nursery rhyme-inspired children’s park fell into disrepair and its landmarks were gutted. All that’s left of the historical site are the remnants of the castle entrance near Schroyer Avenue SW and a hulking blue whale that is probably too heavily anchored to move.
Inside, the whale is stained with soot and pink and purple graffiti and cluttered with broken concrete blocks, beer cans, losing lottery tickets, shattered glass, bottle caps and other debris. The mouth was once the entrance to the aquarium exhibit.
West of downtown Canton, the narrow but deep property — once neatly landscaped and brightly painted — is overgrown, scattered with tree branches and covered with rugged and lumpy terrain. Paved paths, cracked and choked with weeds, lead to nowhere.
In the 1960s, considered the glory days of Mother Gooseland, those paths led to children’s attractions patterned after popular story characters — Humpty Dumpty, Miss Muffet, Goldlilocks and the Three Bears, the Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe, Jack and the Beanstalk and others.
Animals were another draw, including white turkeys, sheep, ponies, three pigs and two seals — Silk and Satin.
The site has sat idle for decades. But city and county park officials still hold out hope the property can be spruced up and possibly reborn as a traditionally styled park or a dog park.
The first step toward rejuvenation may be the $1,600 in the Mother Gooseland Park Fund, an obscure city revenue source.
“It’s a nice starting point,” said Derek Gordon, the interim assistant director of the Canton Park System. “It’s better than starting at zero.”
The money has sat in a special revenue fund untouched since 1998, according to the city auditor’s office. The money can be spent only on the Mother Gooseland property, according to the Law Department.
TIME FOR TLC
Gordon said the city may spend the $1,600 to help clean up the property by trimming trees and clearing weeds.
“I’m hoping to do it this year,” he said. “It’s a vital piece on that entire bike trail that goes through there. It’s become pretty overgrown and a little bit unwieldy, so our goal is to ... at least get it cleaned up so it’s a nice, clear path from point A to point B.”
“It could use a little TLC,” Gordon added.
The former Mother Gooseland site, in the 1400 block of Tuscarawas Street W, west of downtown Canton, is adjacent to a Stark Parks bike, walking and jogging trail along a creek. The path starts at Ninth Street SW and winds through Waterworks Park, Monument Park and Stadium Park before ending at Covered Bridge Park near 38th Street NW — about a five-mile trek.
Page 2 of 2 - “It just seems to be a near and dear place for a lot of people in our community,” Gordon said. “I’d like to bring that back in some fashion.”
After tidying up the site, city and county park officials may turn their sights on the long-term future of the property.
About 10 years ago, the Stark County Park District hatched a plan to rejuvenate the land with a small amphitheater, art wall, informational signs telling of the site’s history and a place for people to wait before walking to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad station to board the train.
Gordon said he’s also reviewing the possibility of converting the untamed property into a dog park. The project would require funding — possibly from the city’s capital improvement fund and donations, he said.
“It’s very exploratory at this point,” he said.
The city also doesn’t own all of the land, Gordon said. US Technology Corp., a company that once operated next-door, apparently owns some of the property, he said. Efforts would have to be made to acquire the rest of the land, Gordon said.
Robert Fonte, Stark County Park District director, is among those who treasure the memories created at Mother Gooseland.
Fonte, 64, frolicked at Mother Gooseland as a child. As an adult he took his own kids there.
He’s not the only one who gets misty-eyed about Mother Gooseland. At the trail dedication, some residents shared old photos of the park, he said.
The plans for a reborn park never materialized. Funding has been an issue — the project is estimated at $1.2 million to $1.5 million. US Technology Corp. had expressed an interest in partnering on the project prior to vacating the adjacent building, Fonte said.
If the project gains traction, it likely would be done in phases or scaled back to make it more financially feasible, he said.
“I think it’d be good to revisit it and try to keep it moving,” Fonte said of the fizzled plans.
THE BLUE WHALE
Fonte said he’s not opposed to a dog park if that’s what the city decides.
However, he suggested that a dog park be located at the southern end of the property and not at the northern end, which is considered a gateway into the downtown Canton area.
Whatever becomes of the property, Mother Gooseland purists will be pleased to know the whale will stay, Gordon said.
“I think it’s cemented in there to the point where it can’t move.”