Because of two sisters and a church's desire to create an oasis from daily hubbub, Fort Wayne has a new community park so people may enjoy games, a picnic or an occasional concert.
St. Joseph United Methodist Church will officially open Praise Park this Saturday. The park, which is located on St. Joe Center Road between Fort Wayne Medical Protective and the yet-to-be built YMCA campus, debuts as a Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival celebration event.
“It's a place for the community — center for the community — to come together to get to know each other,” Christi Murray, the church's family ministry resource facilitator, said. “Hopefully, people will get to know neighbors.”
The 29 1/2 -acre park currently contains two retention ponds, an open-air amphitheater surrounded by another pond, two soccer fields, a softball diamond and a basketball court, she said.
The church, located nearby at 6004 Reed Road, purchased the land in 2005 from Elizabeth Wilson and Helen Laws, sisters who did not want their family farm to become a strip mall, but rather something to serve the community.
Murray said the sisters, who still own a small tract of land in back of the property, first approached the church in 2004. After much planning by various church committees, ground was broken in October 2010.
The church wanted to hold the park's grand opening this weekend and contacted Three Rivers Festival to become part of this year's event, she said.
After the 2 p.m. consecration service, activities begin at 2:30 p.m., including Ultimate Frisbee, corn hole, tug-of-war, sumo wrestling, pickup basketball, soccer and wiffle ball.
An international soccer match organized by the Kenyan group Agape Fellowship International begins at 5 p.m.
Live music will be performed by elle/the REMNANT band, the church's worship pastor, Amy Cox, and praise teams from Cross Pointe and St. Joseph United Methodist Church.
Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, Creative Women of the World, Fort4Fitness, Mobile Arts Studio, St. Joseph United Methodist Church, Prayer Shawl Ministry, The Spice Shack, Julie Stucky Photography, Naked Clay Café, Parkview Health Nutritional Services and the YMCA will share information displays. The Bagel Station, JumBy's JoiNt and Bethany United Methodist Church will provide food for purchase.
Future plans for Praise Park include finishing a storage building and restroom facility and possibly expanding the .25-mile walking track.
Russ Abel, senior pastor of St. Joseph United Methodist Church, said, “Our hope for Praise Park is to be a center of and for the community.”