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Published: Monday, 7/21/2008

Jewel of park is Glandorf village effort

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Glandorf teens volunteer their time at a new park shelter. Glandorf teens volunteer their time at a new park shelter.
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GLANDORF, Ohio - It all started with a kettle of bean soup, hamburgers, and a few cold beers to wash it all down.

Thirty-three years later, this Putnam County village has one of the nicest community parks around, funded in large part by an annual festival predicated on that first pot of soup.

While the village owns the land and mows the grass each week, the ball diamonds, soccer fields, horseshoe pits, playground, mini golf course, shelter houses, rest rooms, shuffleboard courts, and the lush landscaping were paid for and continue to be maintained solely by volunteers and donations.

"Everyone works together and it turns out one heckuva park," said Tom Nienberg, a member of the park board and manager of a local plumbing supply business.

Paul Rieman, Dan Bockrath, and Joe Kleman, from left, shovel mulch onto a garden area near the miniature golf course, which is among the park s many features built by citizens. Paul Rieman, Dan Bockrath, and Joe Kleman, from left, shovel mulch onto a garden area near the miniature golf course, which is among the park s many features built by citizens.
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The park, busy with family reunions on weekends and ballgames most summer nights, is a source of pride for the village about 65 miles southwest of Toledo. Plaques naming donors and volunteers or dedicating trees or shelter houses to a loved one dot the 20 acres the park now covers.

We re actually running out of things to put people s names on, Mr. Nienberg said.

Bicentennial Park, as it was dubbed when its cobblestone arches were built in 1976, sits in the shadow of the towering St. John the Baptist Church.

Glandorf Mayor Gene Warnecke said that when the Catholic parish decided to stop holding its annual social, some people had the idea of holding a summer festival both as a community event and a way to raise money to develop the park, which at the time was just one acre.

A group of people said, Let s do it and give the money to the park. Let s make some bean soup and hamburgers and see who shows up. There were some adult beverages too, he said.

That latter point should be no surprise for a very German town of 919 people that was founded by settlers from Glandorf, Germany.

That was 1975, and that was really the start of the fi rst park festival, Mr. Warnecke said.

Today, people in neighboring towns look at Glandorf s sprawling, well-manicured park with envy.

I hear people say, Why can t we have a park like that? said Jeff Loehrke, community development director in neighboring Ottawa.

Fact is, it takes a lot of people with a lot of dedication.

Just ask Dr. Ron Black, a local chiropractor who helped launch the Glandorf Garden Club in 1988 to take care of the trees that were planted after the village had acquired more park land.

About six volunteers showed up for the fi rst meeting, Dr. Black said. Today, 40-some people count themselves as members, coming out from April to October to spread mulch, edge sidewalks, weed flower beds, and work on whatever project happens to be under way.

The group relies largely on donated labor and materials from area contractors, the local Lions Club, the fi re department, Boy Scouts, and neighbors who just want to keep the park looking good.

Dr. Black said at times the park has experienced vandalism, but it s found a unique way to deal with it. Whenever the culprits are caught, they are turned over to the garden club rather than the sheriff s office.

We make them like partners of the garden club, let them operate the equipment, show them how much time it takes to repair and maintain the park, he said.

We have three kids who still help and they enjoy it even though they did the damage, Dr. Black said.

Right now, the garden club is working every Thursday evening to get the park in shape for the annual festival, which will be held the evening of Aug. 29 and all day Aug. 30.

It s always a busy place, Mr. Warnecke said. My wife and I walked through the other night and sat in the gazebo and just watched the activity. It makes you feel good to see the place being used.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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