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November 9, 2018

Members representing the Wightman-Wieber Foundation and officials serving Sandusky's government pose for a photo on Thursday.


The foundation provided city officials with $500,000 to develop the Sandusky Bay Pathway on Shoreline Drive. 

A prominent public pathway received its largest privately funded contribution to date.

Members serving on the Wightman-Wieber Foundation gifted $500,000 to Sandusky officials on Thursday during a ceremony at the Erie County Community Foundation on East Washington Row.

All money goes into an account specifically for developing and enhancing the Sandusky Bay Pathwaythroughout Shoreline Drive.

“We are just so excited about what it provides, potentially, for the city of Sandusky and surrounding areas,” foundation president Gene Kidwell said. “We did this because, it is our belief that, this is the absolute right thing for us to do as a legacy gift to remember our mission.”

Many Sandusky officials in attendance, including city commissioner Dave Waddington, greatly appreciated the gesture.

“What a blessing this is going to be for our community,” Waddington said. “We can’t thank you enough.”

The foundation

Beginning in 1989, and earning incorporation status in 1996, the foundation — which hosts its annual Safety Fair and KidsFest each May at the Sandusky Bay Pavilion — donates to local organizations supporting arts and humanities, the environment, youth services and, among other areas, safety.

Including the bike path contribution, the foundation has contributed about $5 million to area entities since 2000.

The foundation was established by Darlene M. Wightman Lowery and Karleen Wieber in memory of their daughters, Karrie Ann Wieber and Michelle Wightman, who were killed in a car-train collision in 1989.

Several family members attended Thursday’s ceremony to both support the donation and offer their congratulations to Sandusky for its pathway project.

“This is going to make me cry,” said Lowery, the mother of Michelle. “Just to know the legacy of my daughter will carry on after I’m gone, that means a lot. It will always be here.”

The pathway

Today the incomplete Sandusky Bay Pathway, a 2-mile-long waterfront network, primarily stretches along Sandusky Bay.

Planners, however, want to fulfill blueprints first conceived more than a decade ago and extend the multipurpose trail across Sandusky, touching every single city neighborhood and possibly beyond.

Images show the pathway spanning from Sandusky’s west end, connecting through downtown and linking up with The Landing, a planned 27-acre active waterfront park space behind Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center.

The path would, among other areas, create public access behind Sports Force and around Sandusky Bay’s back bay.

Officials also want governmental neighbors to the east and west sides of Sandusky to continue developing this trail through their political subdivisions.

Timelines on the pathway’s full development throughout Sandusky aren’t firm. For instance, parts of Landing Park could open by as soon as 2020. Though the Shoreline Drive section, however, should end by 2020, coinciding with an $8.8 million project to overhaul the roadway by 2020.

At a cost of $24 million, when including The Landing, the Sandusky Bay Pathway depends on foundation gifts, such as from Wightman-Wieber, and other sources, in hopes of fulfilling these conceptions. Most recently, earlier this month, the city acquired a $500,000 Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant for pathway development.

Wightman-Wieber’s contribution specifically pays for building the path and adding safety features for pedestrians along Shoreline Drive.

“This is one of the most profound gifts that has ever been made to the city of Sandusky,” city manager Eric Wobser said about Wightman-Wieber’s $500,000 gift. “This trailblazing donation is important, as the Sandusky Bay Pathway project will ultimately touch every neighborhood and our entire waterfront. Once completed, this will be a great amenity for our residents and for visitors to Sandusky and our region. We hope this donation is the catalyst that encourages other community partners to support this unique amenity.”

Wobser then underscored how this donation dovetails with Wightman-Wieber’s overall goal.

“There is almost nothing you can do to make the city safer for kids moving around it, and families moving around it, than to have safe pathways where you are not having to intersect with traffic, railroads or anything else,” Wobser said. “This grant is incredibly in line with the mission of Wightman-Wieber.”