PAWNEE ROCK — Saturday morning dawned temperate with a little breeze; perfect for a morning in the park.
Organizers, officials, contributors and volunteers turned out at the Pawnee Rock City Park on Centre Street for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The event marked the completion of a project two years in the making as the Pawnee Rock citizenry continues to look toward a downtown revitalization effort.
The city’s new gazebo was decked out in fall foliage and the playground equipment was sporting green mulch waiting for a child’s light tread as the centerpieces of the event. Several members of the community wore blue T-shirts in honor of the first annual Hard Rock 5K Run in July, as the park was getting its facelift.
Pawnee Rock Mayor Paul Umble welcomed those in attendance, prior to the ribbon cutting at the north end of the pavilion.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” I want to thank you all for coming out to Pawnee Rock,” Mayor Umble said. “We are excited to have people that participated in the building and the playground.”
Umble gave special thanks to city office employees Yvonne Link and Chris Mead for starting the process. “They pursued grants and help from the Barton County Commissioners, to get this process rolling. Ellinwood’s Jon Prescott was able to recruit volunteers to the mission; residents Denise Penn and Laura Straub joined the Revitalization Committee and Commissioner Tricia Schlessiger provided her help.” A special note went to Christy Tustin for financial assistance with a large donation from the Golden Belt Foundation.
Umble also made special mention of resident Eric Roof, who passed away last May. “As financial contributions go, Eric’s contributions were small, but consistent and never-ending,” Umble noted. “The man walked into the office every day and threw money in the boot or the jar. We want to remember Eric Roof and his giving to the community.”
Barton County Commissioner Schlessiger noted that on behalf of the commissioners, she was thrilled with the project’s progress. “You came that very first time and we said to come back with a plan, and you did,” she said. “We are happy to be a part of this project. Great job.”
The task of cutting the ribbon was passed to Tustin as the well-wishers cheered her on. Tustin, who for more than 20 years served as executive director of the Golden Belt Community Foundation, marked Saturday as her last day in that position as she looks ahead to executive director of the Kansas Association of Community Foundations.
Mayor Umble noted that the focus of the first project was to give people of the community a gathering place. “We want to start focusing on structural things in the community,” he said. “There are some unsafe structures in town.
“It’s hard to find money for demolition, but there is money for rebuilding,” Umble said. “Some of the property owners wouldn’t be able to afford the demo, but we’re trying to find ways to get some new stuff made and begin bringing new businesses to town.”
The goal is to keep growing, he said. “There is stuff up in the works.”
One of the smaller projects in the future would be to place a memorial bench for Eric Roof, for his contributions.