Rotary to hail centennial with new park donation

This sketch shows a bird’s eye view of the new Rotary Centennial Park to be constructed at the corner of Jefferson Street and Park Drive, in downtown Huntington.
This sketch shows a bird’s eye view of the new Rotary Centennial Park to be constructed at the corner of Jefferson Street and Park Drive, in downtown Huntington. Sketch contributed.

The Rotary Club of Huntington is preparing to celebrate its centennial in 2017 with the construction of Rotary Centennial Park.

The park will be located on the lot that is currently home to Roche Hall at the corner of Jefferson Street and Park Drive. The demolition of the building, set to begin next week, will provide space necessary for the new park.

“Before we had a park project, I was spearheading and pushing people into planning something for the centennial,” says Mel Ring,  a member of the Huntington Rotary Club’s board of directors.“I remember that on our 50th anniversary, the speaker was the director of NASA at that time and that was when we were talking about going to the moon and all of those things.”

Ring says original plans for the celebration of the club’s centennial included another dinner with a high profile speaker.

“Now this park has come along and dinner has taken a back seat,” says Ring. “We might still have one, but we are building a park first.”

The ideas for taking the building down and constructing a public park began being discussed in either November or December, he said.

“Actual plans have only been completed for a couple of months,” says Ring. “There are some architectural designers in Fort Wayne that came up with some ideas and we agreed with their concept and didn’t want to change much.”

Construction on the park will begin immediately after the building demolition in March. The timing of the demolition was dictated by the Indiana Department of Transpor- tation’s concern about temporarily closing Jefferson Street.

“I understand that the people taking it down are already taking different things out,” Ring says. “But, the actual tearing down of the bricks will begin after the first of the month.”

The demolition and construction will be intensive due to the building’s basement and the ill-constructed nature of the adjoining parking lot, he explains.

“Those two lots there will all be new from the ground up,” says Ring. “We will have green space and a new parking lot.”

Park plans include an arch at the entrance, a fountain in the shape of the Rotary wheel, benches and a large clock.

“One of my particular involvements is the clock,” says Ring. “It’s a large clock with four 42-inch faces so that it can be seen from any direction. Each of those faces will have the Rotary wheel on it.”

One of the largest planning considerations for Rotary Centennial Park has been that it be built in such a way that it requires low maintenance in the future.

“Someone mentioned using granite benches that won’t need repainting and such over the years, and that’s probably what we will have,” Ring says. “It will be there for, we hope, well into the second hundred years of our club and we hope that it will always look good.”

Ring says most of the Huntington Rotary Club’s 65 members will be involved in fund-raising in some manner.

“Most of them (Rotary Club members) are going to be serving in some capacity,” says Ring. “One of the things we are doing at the moment is contacting families of past members who might want to memorialize their loved one in some way.”

Other monies for the project will come out of the club’s budget, grant applications and other fund-raisers.

“I guess it’s a sign of age, but my feeling has been that we can do it and we must do it,” Ring says. “We’re leaving no stone unturned.”

There has been very little negativity directed at the demolition of the older building and the creation the Rotary Centennial Park, says Ring.

“We have gotten an unbelievable response,” he says. “People are interested in it and most of the time they are positive about it.”

Ring’s estimation is that the project will be completed sometime in the late fall.

To view designs of the future Rotary Centennial Park, visit the Rotary Club of Huntington, Indiana, page on Facebook.