The Foundation Park Conservancy was created in 2009 by Mount Vernon Mayor Richard K. Mavis to develop and execute a master plan for what was then known as Foundation Park. Initially an 85-acre park encompassing two lakes and river frontage acquired by the City of Mount Vernon in 2000 with a grant from the Knox County Foundation, it was expanded to 125-acres with the assistance of a 2006 Clean Ohio Grant.
The fortuitous location of Foundation Park, adjacent to the Ohio to Erie Trail system, the scenic Kokosing River, and historic Downtown Mount Vernon, encouraged the Conservancy board members to set the bar high for this unique recreational and economic development opportunity.
As the Conservancy’s involvement in Foundation Park grew, so did Foundation Park itself. Major funding from The Ariel Foundation not only advanced the Conservancy’s planning mission, but also enabled the 2013 purchase of the 75-acre former Pittsburgh Plate Glassworks site. This acquisition, prompting the renaming of the entire area as “Ariel-Foundation Park” in honor of its two major benefactors, set the stage for creating a world-class recreational area.
Under the leadership of Ted Schnormeier, a vision and plan were set in motion for the completion of the park in time for a July 4, 2015, community-wide celebration. On this historic date, the expanded and enhanced park was presented to the City of Mount Vernon. A new challenge awaited the Conservancy following the grand opening as it transformed from a “fundraising and building” board to a “fund raising, programming, and development” board. As major stakeholders of Ariel-Foundation Park, the Knox County Foundation, the City of Mount Vernon, and The Ariel Foundation were tasked with appointing and relaunching a smaller, re-purposed board of directors.
Since then, The Foundation Park Conservancy has led an ambitious program of physical enhancements to the park, as well as a variety of innovative programs and strategic partnerships. Thousands of guests visit the park each year, some on a daily basis, to enjoy its three lakes, beautiful woods, walking trails, and historic industrial "ruins." Without a doubt, the spiraling Rastin Tower and Observation Deck has established itself as the park's most iconic landmark.
Under a lease agreement with the City of Mount Vernon, the Foundation Park Conservancy continues to care for and maintain the entire 250-acre park, as well as provide leadership and oversight for events, reservations, and fundraising. A small, dedicated staff provides day-to-day support for grounds and building maintenance, event operations, reservations, and other programming.
While much has been accomplished in a relatively brief span of time, the Foundation Park Conservancy remains focused on making Ariel-Foundation Park both an everyday recreational resource for the 60,000+ residents of Mount Vernon and Knox County and a destination for “seekers of the unique” from throughout Ohio and the Midwest.
Foundation Park Conservancy Board of Directors:
Nick Clark, Vice President
Jen Odenweller, Secretary
Josh Mullet, Treasurer
Non-Voting Foundation Park Conservancy Members:
Tom Hinkle, City of Mount Vernon
Amber Keener, City Council Representative/Board of Parks & Recreation