A few years ago the Park and Recreation Department leaders and Mayor Tom Henry announced the restoration of the Gen. Anthony Wayne statue and the plan to relocate it across the street on the Court House Green. The press reported: “The move of the statue is an effort to give more visibility to the statue, highlight the contributions of Anthony Wayne, and continue the positive momentum in downtown Fort Wayne.” There was such a public outcry the plan was abandoned and Mad Anthony continues to grace Freimann Square.
Sound familiar? “Better visibility” and “respect” are terms Indiana Tech and Parks and Rec. officials use to convince people that one location in Memorial Park is as good and respectful as another. The best way to continue to not only honor the lives of the 125 men who died in WW I but to keep the park in its current natural state as approved in the 2002 Cultural Landscape report is to have Indiana Tech build their athletic facilities elsewhere.
I empathize with Indiana Tech’s dilemma: They have been growing over the past decade and are now squeezed for space, but building in Memorial Park will not resolve this issue long-term. As the News Sentinel quoted VP of University Relations Brian Engelhart: “We are open to input,” he said. “We certainly heard concerns, but we have not heard other alternatives.” (4/13) When did it become the taxpayer’s responsibility to resolve their dilemma? What they need to do is research building/buying a second campus like the University of St. Francis and Ivy Tech did. The former YWCA Villa on N. Wells St. with its combination of over 24 acres of park-like atmosphere, historic buildings, parking, and room for expansion comes to mind. It is also close to downtown. Certainly The Villa or other ideal land is available for purchase instead of resorting to the unprecedented move of carving up a third of a cherished century – old public park that honors our war dead.
The four park commissioners have set a public hearing for May 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Memorial Park pavilion. This is the time for citizens to show their support for Memorial Park. We the people is who our government officials serve. This project surprised most everyone on the day it was revealed complete with architectural renderings. Concerned citizens didn’t have a voice in shaping it: We do have a voice in stopping it. If the commissioners vote 2-2, Mayor Tom Henry breaks the tie.
I have participated in the Waynedale Memorial Day Parade for several years and I am so moved that so many of you not only line the streets, but take the time to go to Prairie Grove Cemetery to listen to the roll call of the recent veterans who passed away, to the somber taps, the 21-gun salute and the ‘Pipes and Drums. We respect the sacrifices of those who gave up their lives, this is our time to make certain Memorial Park that was laid out with so much care and consideration isn’t disturbed. If you cannot come out on May 4, then take a moment to call the commissioners and leave them a message.
If the Commissioners vote to allow this project to proceed, this century old historic site within the park will be destroyed and lost forever. Let’s work together to find Indiana Tech a new home for their athletic facilities so everyone can respectfully gather on November 11, 2018 to commemorate the end of WW I in the same spot our ancestors gathered when they dedicated the park almost a century ago.
Board of Park Commissioners:
President Richard Samek (260) 423-9411
Vice-President Pamela Kelly M.D. Unlisted
William Zielke (260) 203-5744
Justin Shurley (260) 407-2808
Mayor Tom Henry (260) 427-1111
Lois Levihn, a life-long Fort Wayne resident is proud of both of her grandfathers who served in WW I, her father and several uncles who served in WW II and her son who currently serves his nation in the USMC. Her column Around The Frame will return in the next issue.