More than 100 people recently found their way to Brownstown’s newest park for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Some of those involved in seeing Heritage Park come to life hope those on hand and many others continue to put the park to use in the future.
Town Council President John Nolting spoke during a brief ceremony Oct. 23 and said it seems like the park had been forever in the making, although actual construction on the 40-by-40-foot pavilion didn’t begin until the May 9 groundbreaking.
Story continues below gallery
Brownstown/Ewing Main Street was involved in the project involving the former feed mill site in the 100 block of East Walnut Street across from the courthouse, Nolting said.
“They kind of got the seed there, and we kind of decided — the town board — to tear the mill down,” he said.
The town council applied for a federal grant and received $155,000 to purchase the property and demolished the two feed mill buildings and a silo.
A public meeting later held at W.R. Ewing led to several potential uses for the space, and that in turn led to a committee being formed to come up with some uses for the park, Nolting said.
That committee consists of Mike Tormoehlen, Joe Reynolds, Mary Sue Spurgeon, Margie Strange, Dick Parman, Carl Shake, Greg Grisham and David Willey. Wilma Wessel also was a member until her death Jan. 7, Nolting said.
“We had a nice green space out there,” Nolting said.
A $50,000 Place Based Investment grant from two state agencies along with a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County and donations helped fund the purchase of pavilion, which had an $81,000 price tag.
The project still needed one other thing to make it possible — someone to build the pavilion, install brick and concrete sidewalks and landscape.
Nolting said when talk about erecting the pavilion began, Tormoehlen, who is a builder, said it would be easier on the budget if volunteer help was available.
“I know how volunteers work,” Nolting said. “They’re there (at first), and then when you need them, they are not there. But I’m telling you, we put a call out for volunteers, and it was unbelievable. And there were a lot of 90-degree days out there this summer, but these guys were working out there every day.”
Tormoehlen said the average age of the volunteers was probably over 65.
“So that’s our contribution,” he said. “Now, I hope the younger generation takes it upon themselves to use this facility. I would really hate to see it not be used now that we have done all this work.”
Brownstown resident Susan Deaton said she thinks the park will be used for years to come.
Deaton grew up in Seymour but remembers coming to the mill with her grandfather when she was a child.
“It got to be kind of an eyesore here in town,” she said. “I am so proud of Brownstown for doing this.”
While state and town money was used to make the park a reality, there also was about $32,000 in donations from individuals and groups along with businesses, Tormoehlen said.
The work of the volunteers and the contributions make it all happen, he said.
“It’s a miracle,” he said.
Blake Hackman’s horticulture class at Brownstown Central High School put the finishing touches on the first phase of the park in recent weeks by providing some landscaping. Their work included putting together a garden in memory of Wessel with plans to add a sculpture to that garden in the coming months.
Bill Wessel said his wife would have been proud of the park.
“It’s really nice,” he said. “It beats seeing that feed mill here.”
Longtime town councilman Bill Sweeney said he never thought he would see the park become a reality.
Sweeney spent 39 years working just around the corner from the feed mill at a furniture store.
“It was really an eyesore,” he said. “We had to do something. It blows my mind how far it’s went.”
The Heritage Park committee will begin work again in January to formulate plans for additions to the facility. The spring of 2017 will see the placement of benches, picnic tables, audience shade screens and other enhancements to the area.