Huntington residents step up to keep parks nicely maintained

Boys and Girls Club of Huntington County members (from left) Brooklyn Holzinger, Sierrra White and Dylan Shively recently participated in a project to plant flowers in the downtown area planter boxes.
Boys and Girls Club of Huntington County members (from left) Brooklyn Holzinger, Sierrra White and Dylan Shively recently participated in a project to plant flowers in the downtown area planter boxes. Photo by Andre B. Laird.

Summer is in full swing and more area residents have been spending time at the local parks than in previous years.

The Huntington Parks Department is responsible for the overall maintenance of the nine parks and Denise Bard, superintendent, says that the department has received an overwhelming response from people wanting to help with the upkeep.

"Well, it all started with the budget situation and the fact that we lost staff," states Bard. "We've always had a few volunteers every year, but never on this large a scale."

Bard says that the economy has taken a toll on many residents and that the increase in activity at the parks is an indicator.

"For a lot of families, there is no longer a big budget to take long vacations out of town," she says.
"Therefore, we are seeing more and more families taking trips to the parks and spending time together locally, as opposed to leaving town."

Bard adds that these increased "local vacations" have prompted a renewed interest in the condition of the parks.

"We have found that more people are stepping up to help us, especially since they know that we are a little short-staffed," Bard notes. "For people who have lived here all their lives, there are a lot of personal and fond memories of time spent at these parks."

Help, Bard adds, has come from various private citizens as well as local agencies and organizations.

"There is no shortage of projects and we've had people do simple tasks such as weeding flower boxes and moving trash to groups undertaking larger projects," states Bard. "We have a resident, Chuck Fuller, who wanted to give back. He now mows the lawn at General Slack Park and has gotten a few kids involved as well."

Other projects completed include installing planter boxes by the Boys & Girls Club; the vocational school and Soil and Water Conservation District both built retaining walls; and Joel Harrell, a client of Pathfinder Servcies, helped to pull weeds.

"Members of the VFW helped us to clean up Sunken Gardens; Stan Bippus power washed the tennis courts at Memorial Park; the Huntington North cheer squad and coaching staff spent a week pulling weeds and adding mulch and my children helped to pick up tree limbs after a storm," adds Bard.

Bards says the help that the department has received speaks volumes to the character of the town.

"This just solidifies the importance of the parks in our residents' lives," she notes. "Our parks enhance our lives daily and provide a place for families and friends to spend time together without spending any money."
Bard says that it's also important that youth un-
derstand the importance of the parks and giving back to the community through service.

"It helps them to better appreciate what they have and not take anything for granted," she adds. "I would encourage anyone who wanted to participate in helping out to do so. Help is always needed."

Bard says that in relation to its size, Huntington is lucky to have such a large park system. The local parks are Elmwood, Drover, General Slack, Memorial, Evergreen, Erie-Yeoman, Laurie and Hier's.

"With the addition of the Spray Park at Drover Park a few years ago, our parks now accommodate a wide variety of interests," states Bard. "There are also plans to add new options as well."

She adds that when the tennis courts at Memorial Park are repainted, a Pickle Ball court will be added.

"There is a group in Huntington that plays the sport, says Bard. "Currently, they travel to Fort Wayne to play because of the lack of a local court. It's a sport that I know nothing about, but I'm sure there will be people interested once we have a court here."

Bard adds that she is pleased with all the help the Parks Department has gotten and encourages more residents to help out if and when they can.

"This economy has forced a lot of people to go back to the basics and plan simpler and less expensive recreational activities, which are just as enjoyable," she states. "We encourage anyone who has the time to volunteer to come out and help."

For more information about Huntington's parks or to volunteer, contact Bard at the Parks Department at 358-2323.

The Parks Department is located at 1205 W. Park Drive.

Complete caption: Boys and Girls Club of Huntington County members (from left) Brooklyn Holzinger, Sierrra White and Dylan Shively recently participated in a project to plant flowers in the downtown area planter boxes. The club is just one of the many organizations and individuals who have stepped up to help the Huntington Parks Department to maintain the local parks and other area locations.