I went to my home town of Streator, IL for father’s day. My dad wanted to show me how my childhood park had been revitalized. My expectations were low. I knew this park well as a kid. It bordered our cow pasture, so I rode my horse there often. I remember hanging out on Charlotte, my childhood horse, at the bottom of the Falls as my friends sun bathed on the limestone rock shelf. It was a great place to hang out. If you walked back from the Falls in the creek towards our pasture, there was a deep spot. We would jump off a tree into this water hole. The park had a tough side, too. There were lots of drugs and drinking at various times throughout its history. It grew very rough over the years. It was tough to control given its remote location and partial gravel roads getting to it.
As soon as we pulled into the park I was impressed. There was a big wooden sign, the parking lot was nicely graveled, there was a motor home with mowed grass in front of it, a fence with beautiful flowers, a wooden bridge with a ramp, a bulletin board type sign and people. This was different than the dirt lot with rough trails that I remember from childhood. As soon as we pulled up, my dad introduced me to Ruth Fennick and Lois Guyon. They were very excited to show us the new hanging bridge. Wow! What a bridge. It is an Indiana Jones like hanging bridge over the creek.
Ruth and Lois shared with me all they had done at this park. The park is about 37 acres. Many trails have been created. Enough for an hour and a half horse ride if you meander them all. Many signs have been created naming each trail. They have a map of all the trails as a handout. School groups have started coming to the park for natural history education. Research has been done on the history of the park and it is maintained.
The amazing thing is how this small group of people converted a very rough park into a gem. I asked how they kept drunks and druggies away. These 70 year old ladies take two hour shifts keeping an eye on the park. They ask people to leave if unruly. They said it doesn’t have to take government money to create a beautiful park. It is all volunteer, donations and ladies with spunk. Much of the town has jumped in to help and donated or volunteered in some fashion. Even my dad drove his tractor there to help spread the gravel for the parking lot. If you have a few hours and a pair of gloves please give them a hand.
Is there a park like this in your hometown? Let us know about it.