Officials honor opening of Lester A. Lefton Esplanade (with gallery)

Pathway to be named in honor of outgoing Kent State University president

By Jeremy Nobile | Staff Writer Published:

Kent City Manager Dave Ruller called the Esplanade the metaphorical exclamation point on collaborative projects realized between the city and Kent State University.

But that story is far from over.

"This is just one piece of a much bigger plan," said KSU President Lester Lefton.

More than 100 members of the community and university gathered Friday at the arch of the recently completed $3.3 million extension of the Esplanade -- the pathway that runs through KSU and connects the campus to downtown Kent -- to dedicate the physical and symbolic link bridging city with university.

As a variety of citizens and officials waited out a downpour, clouds eventually broke, shining a bright spotlight on the structure and the group gathered to honor the fruits of collaboration.

"This is a symbol of an important era of new town-gown cooperation," said Jane Timken, chairwoman of the KSU Board of Trustees.

Timken then announced trustees will vote to name the walkway the Lester A. Lefton Esplanade in December in honor of the efforts of the KSU president, who will retire in July after eight years in the post.

Timken said trustees credit Lefton with leading KSU to "new heights of achievement."

"Our vote will make this Esplanade a symbol of the high esteem in which Dr. Lefton will always be held," she said.

Ruller -- who quipped the pathway may now be better known as the "L'Esplanade" -- said the dedication is bittersweet.

"Our little pile of dirt is all grown up," said Ruller sentimentally.

Ohio Sen. John Eklund and State Rep. Kathleen Clyde presented proclamations to the city and university honoring the Esplanade. Both described the project as an example of what can be achieved when cities and universities work in harmony to realize a vision of progress.

"Indeed this project convincingly demonstrates how very much can be accomplished by a group of conscientious people with clear objectives and firm resolve, and we applaud them on their tremendous work," said Clyde, a Kent native. "In the years to come, this fine walkway will undoubtedly have a positive influence on the character and conditions of the KSU campus and our surrounding region."

Further symbolizing collaboration between the city, the university and the area's business sector, Sandra Reid, vice president of The Davey Tree Expert Co., dedicated a 35-foot tall pin oak "partnership" tree planted just off the Esplanade near downtown Kent. Such trees, she said, were often used to tie together timbers in wooden structures, appropriately symbolizing unification and teamwork.

The Esplanade project was originally approved amongst KSU master plans in 1996, with the first funded portions of the project completed between 2004 and 2006.

Since 2007, KSU has spent over $10 million acquiring 40 acres worth of properties between Lincoln Street and Haymaker Parkway (S.R. 59) to build out the extension funneling pedestrians to and fro campus and downtown.

The extension, completed in August, marks the completion of the path that stretches from Haymaker Parkway to Risman Plaza. The overall project is one of many realized through unified efforts between the city, university, federal, state and business sectors to mold Kent into a model college town.

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Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or jnobile@recordpub.com

Facebook: Jeremy Nobile, Record-Courier

Twitter: @jnobile_RPC

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