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Lake Clare park remains closed

The Lake Clare Fitness Park is closed to the public. The park has been closed since June 2020. Huntington Township Trustee E.J. Carroll hopes the park will reopen soon.
The Lake Clare Fitness Park is closed to the public. The park has been closed since June 2020. Huntington Township Trustee E.J. Carroll hopes the park will reopen soon. Photo by Lauren Winterfeld.

The Lake Clare Fitness Park has been officially closed since early June 2020, after a tort claim was filed against the park.

A tort claim is a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act. The claimant is typically seeking to obtain a private civil remedy, most commonly, money damages.

According to a post, dated June 5, 2020, from the park’s official Facebook page, “A woman from Fort Wayne is suing the Huntington Township for neglect, stating the large tire that was at the fitness park was pushed over her 12-year-old son who suffered a broken arm.”

In recent weeks, an increase of inquiry about the status of the park has been made on social media.

Huntington Township Trustee E.J. Carroll, who oversees the operations at Lake Clare, wants people to know “we want the park open.”

He says since the park closed, he has been unsuccessful in finding a new insurance company to provide coverage for the park.

Three obstacles stand in the way, said Carroll.

“It’s a ‘stick-built’ product and not a manufactured product; it’s unsupervised; and essentially, it is open 24 hours per day – even though there are signs that say it is open dawn to dusk.

“Those are our biggest obstacles we find with insurance.”

Carroll says he is hopeful to find an insurance company who will cover the park by June, when the policy that covers the entire 71-acre Lake Clare property expires.

“Insurance companies want the whole property, or nothing at all,” he says.

He says he is “actively shopping” for new policies.

Carroll says it is of utmost importance that the community stays positive.

“We need to be supportive of the park, and not negative to why the park is not opening. And especially, we can’t be negative towards the family who has filed the civil claim against the park,” Carroll explains.

“We have actually had two insurance companies who have said ‘With the negativity surrounding this, we don’t think it’s best for us to be a part of this right now,’” he says,

“So, we can’t do that.

“We need to be better – and truly show our support for it.”

Carroll explained that insurance companies from out-of-state that are considering insuring the fitness park typically visit the Lake Clare Fitness Park Facebook page and the Huntington Township Facebook page. These pages allow companies that are not local to see photos of the fitness park, including aerial views and photos of people using the park. However, as evidenced, the negative comments on those pages have given companies a reason not to go forward with insurance.

Carroll says he has backed off from posting information about the status of the fitness park online, because he thought it would keep anything negative from being posted.

Even so, with spring on the horizon and a light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against COVID-19, the community has taken to social media to question when the park will reopen.

This resulted in a few individuals attending the most recent Huntington Township Board meeting and inquiring about the park.

“We had a very limited crowd with nice discussion,” said Carroll.

“The biggest thing,” said Carroll, “is that it is not the township that does not want to open. We want it as bad as everyone else.”

Carroll says he loses sleep over the park being closed.

“My biggest frustration,” he explains, “is this equipment the Piddlers (Professional Piddlers Association) have built is excellent.

“I mean, it is probably better than any manufactured product that you can get.

“It’s not the equipment that shut the park down – it’s a tire.

“We didn’t even build it.

“It’s not the equipment.

“It’s a tire.”

The Professional Piddlers Association began construction on the park in March 2017, and a grand opening was held on July 8, 2017.

The park was by and large a community effort, with the funding for the park coming in from fundraisers held over the years by the Piddlers.
The park includes balance beams, climbing walls, log roll obstacles, a military crawl, climbing ropes and many other physical challenges for young and old alike.

Carroll says he just needs an insurance company to tell him what they want.

“If they say you’re going to have to put a fence around this, you’re going to have to put cameras up, you’re going to have to supervise it, we are willing to do those things. I just don’t have anybody who has given me those options yet.”

Carroll reiterates his desire to open the park.

He says he has hopes for live music events to be held in the adjacent pavilion, with food trucks, as a weekly entertainment option at Lake Clare. However, he wants the fitness park to be open for those events.

“I don’t want all these people to come out there and say, ‘Enjoy yourselves, but don’t go play on the equipment.’”

For now, the park remains closed and will stay closed until insurance is obtained.