A longtime Sylvania Fourth of July Fireworks tradition was nearly lost, until the local Boy Scouts stepped in to save the day.
Every year, hundreds of cars full of happy revelers park at the big open lot at the corner of Centennial Road and Brint Road, for a picnic and spectacular view of the Centennial Terrace fireworks. In recent years, however, a new tradition has appeared, that of dumping trash from the festivities into the grass before heading for home.
“It had gotten so bad that Hanson said we couldn’t use it anymore, the public was not going to be allowed to come out there for the fireworks anymore,” said Sylvania Township Police Lieutenant of Operations Robert Austin. “It’s a disaster out there. We didn’t know how bad it was, we just couldn’t believe it.”
Lt. Austin said his department was aware that the Boy Scouts took care of the parking lot at Metamora State Bank for the fireworks, so the police approached them about doing the Centennial/Brint lot too.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Lt. Austin. “They (the Scouts) haven’t been able to earn any money for a while, and now the lot will be organized, everyone will be in a good spot with a view.”
Local Boy Scout Troop 154, sponsored by Sylvania First United Methodist Church, just resumed meeting in-person this April, and they have done no parking fundraising events since before the pandemic. The police told the scouts they could organize the event however they wanted, and charge whatever they wanted, as long as they came back the next day to clean it all up.
“We use the money for lots and lots of different things. A lot of it is used to reduce the cost of our campouts for our scouts,” said Troop 154 Scoutmaster Allan Ellet. “We firmly believe that everybody ought to be able to participate in scouts. So if we have a family that says they cannot afford to pay for summer camp, we work with them to help pay.”
The Troop is charging $5.00 per car, which is the average going rate in all the nearby parking situations. Parking jobs have been Troop 154’s principal source of fundraising since a Metamora State Bank employee approached them while they were cooking hamburgers at the Sylvania Fall Festival, and that was over twenty years ago.
“We sell popcorn, scout coffee, and participate in other fundraisers, but you’d have to sell an awful lot of coffee and popcorn to make what we make parking cars,” shared Ellet.
Some of Troop 154’s fifty-two scouts were out at the lot on Thursday and Friday, marking lines for ordered rows so everyone has room and a good view on Saturday. They young men, age eleven to eighteen, measured the available space for cars to be 1500 feet by 570 feet.
“We don't have an estimate of yet,” Ellet said of the number of cars that might be parked. “But we are not going to crowd people in or jam them in tight. We’re not sure how many people are going to come in, and this is one of the things with an event like that. Last week at the disco party, we had fifteen scouts and six adults waiting to park cars at the Metamora Bank lot, and we parked a total of six cars. A case like that, we don’t make any money. But in a case like this, we could get five hundred or six hundred cars or maybe more.”
Ellet said that the Scouts will be ready early on Saturday to start guiding cars in.
“We are going to have people there at 3:00 p.m. on July 3 to make sure we have trash bins out, and we’re all set and ready to start parking,” said Ellet. “We will be parking cars from that point on until either the lot fills up or the fireworks start.”
Ellet suggested that it's not necessary for spectators to arrive that early.
"I would say that they don't need to get here early," said the scoutmaster. "They can watch the fireworks from the lot, or they can walk to Centennial Terrace if they choose to, but it's quite a hike from here, it’s about a mile, I believe. But they should be able to see the fireworks from the lot. They can bring their chairs and sit outside their car, they can sit in their car, they can pretty much do whatever they like."
Ellet said that everyone must enter the lot off of Brint Road, and cars will be exiting the same way they enter, though when they leave they must turn left. The Township Police will be blocking off the entrances/exits on Centennial Road.
“We will have police radios here and if it gets out of control, we will contact the police department and they will deal with it,” Ellet also advised. “And I don’t think it would be a smart idea for people to plan on having fires or grills in this lot. They just cut the grass, there’s lot of dry dead grass laying here in the lot, I would not recommend anybody plan on having a fire here.”
Another change for the fireworks this year is that over at Centennial Terrace, the band will be playing later this year during the Star Spangled Celebration.
“It will help if we can keep people at the Terrace a little longer,” said Lt. Austin. “Hopefully, this will help us get traffic out better, because everyone won’t be leaving all at once.”
Lt. Austin estimated that Sylvania usually sees an influx of 3,000 to 5,000 cars, but they don’t have an exact number since cars park all over town. For those looking to park somewhere else nearby with a view, Lt. Austin has these tips: You have to be parked off the roadway; make sure you do not park on private property, stay in the right-of-way; and do not park anywhere on Sylvania-Metamora or Mitchaw next to Pacesetter Park, as that must be left open for traffic. And for residents, Lt. Austin said it is legal and absolutely fine to rent out your yard for parking.
Sylvania Township will be collaborating with the City of Sylvania Police Division, Monroe County Sheriff's Department, Lucas County Sheriff's Department, and Sylvania Fire-EMS for the big event.
“We’re just trying to keep everybody safe, and get everybody out in a timely manner,” added Lt. Austin. “We want everyone to come out this year, and enjoy their time with their family and friends.”
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The lot at Centennial and Brint is owned by Lehigh Hanson, and when it’s not being used as a parking lot for golf tournaments, or, in the past, the traveling circus, (those events do have permission) the space is used throughout the year by dog walkers. However, the lot is private property, and there are “No Trespassing” signs posted. A Lehigh Hanson employee confirmed that “It’s property that the quarry owns for future use, and it is not there for a buffer. It is not a dog park. It’s all about liability, if we give people permission, then it makes us responsible. We are considered an 'Attractive Nuisance' for insurance purposes.”
The employee shared that there have been discussions periodically about fencing in the lot at Centennial and Brint, but it’s not something that will decided here, on this level, by Sylvania employees. The decision would be made by corporate management, in Texas. Lehigh Hanson has already fenced in other property they own in the area, and those caught trespassing are prosecuted.
For the fireworks event, Lehigh Hanson has paid to clean the lot in the past, or had their own employees go out to clean up, until the garbage situation escalated and in 2018 they were done.
Locals often bring their dogs to run in the lot at Centennial and Brint.