Memorial Park upgrade proposed
By Matthew LeBlanc | The Journal Gazette
The Fort Wayne Parks Board will vote next month on recommendations to spend nearly $700,000 on improvements to Memorial Park.
The suggestions were presented at a meeting Thursday and come from a task force appointed last year to examine possible park improvements. Recommendations include landscaping upgrades, new pathways and refurbishing neglected statues and memorials.
Memorials to Vietnam veterans and the Fort Wayne Daisies, a women's professional baseball team, would move to other locations in the park, according to a 42-page task force report.
The group was formed in June 2017, after a plan from Indiana Tech to develop the park drew opposition from nearby residents and veterans groups. That plan, which was withdrawn, called for moving some memorials to accommodate a new athletic facility and improving an existing softball field.
“The attention Memorial Park is getting now, you can't ask for more than that,” task force member Gary Perkey said.
His Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club paid to replace 71 trees in the park's Memorial Grove late last year and will use money left over from a fundraising effort for that project to fund installation of benches and a plaque commemorating the club's partnership with the city.
Officials will consider funding sources for other recommendations. Board president Rick Samek said maintenance funds could cover some costs, and the report notes the Parks Department has earmarked $50,000 per year through 2021 for park improvements related to task force suggestions.
The department has budgeted $50,000 through 2022 for monument restoration, the report says. Landscaping improvements around memorials will be paid for through the department's capital improvement fund over five years, the report says.
Memorial Park is nearly 100 years old and sits on 42 acres between Washington Boulevard and Maumee Avenue. The park's hilly topography was used in its design to guide visitors to memorials located there, according to the report.
That's difficult now because no trails lead to the memorials, and the report suggests spending $104,600 on paths 6- to 8-feet wide to connect to the attractions and the surrounding neighborhood.
Projects included in the report are ranked by priority. Priority 1 items include spending up to $42,000 to refurbish the Olen J. Pond Memorial – including the recreation of the statue's missing head – and paying up to $88,400 to fix up the Arthur Smith Memorial, named for a celebrated local stunt pilot.
“A lot has been invested financially and emotionally in these monuments, and we want to take care of them,” Samek said.
Jim Olds, commander of the Allen County Council of Veterans Organizations, said the planned improvements ensure a future for the park and veterans.
“Everything that's in there looks good to us,” he said.
In other business, Parks Department Steve McDaniel said Promenade Park is “50 to 60 percent complete.”
Work continues on the riverfront project, including construction on the north and south banks of the St. Marys River, he said. The park is expected to be complete next year.
The parks board will meet next at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 13.