Memorial Park Task Force recommends monument restoration, new paths and more in Fort Wayne’s Memorial Park

The Olen J. Pond memorial statute would be repaired and restored under recommendations made today by the Memorial Park Task Force. The task force's report was discussed at the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department board of park commissioners meeting today at Citizens Square. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)
The Allen County Vietnam Veterans Memorial would be relocated from the east side of Memorial Park to the west side under a recommendation by the Memorial Park Task Force. The task force's recommendations were presented this morning at the meeting of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department's board of park commissioners meeting. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
The Fort Wayne Daisies All-American Girls Professional Baseball League memorial would be moved to a more prominent location near the ball diamond in Memorial Park under park improvements recommended by the Memorial Park Task Force. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)
The Memorial Park Task Force recommendations include repairing and restoring the monument remembering local aviation pioneer Art "Bird Boy" Smith in Memorial Park. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Memorial Park Task Force recommendations include repairing and restoring the World War Triumphal Arch monument near the entrance to Memorial Park. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Monuments in Memorial Park would be repaired and restored, two monuments could be relocated, and five benches and a new monument would be installed in the park’s Memorial Grove, under recommendations from a task force that studied what improvements are needed at the park at Maumee and Glasgow avenues.

An overview of the report was discussed this morning at the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department’s board of park commissioners meeting in Citizens Square. Park board members will consider voting on approval of the task force recommendations at their meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 13 in Room 30 at Citizens Square.

“The committee did a great job of detailing the deterioration of many of these (monuments) and what needs to be done,” park board President Rick Samek said during the meeting.

The parks department plans to post a copy of the report within the next day or two on its website. You also can see a copy temporarily by clicking here.

Memorial Park, which is 100 years old this year, was created as a memorial to Allen County men and women who died while in U.S. military service during World War I.

The park board formed the task force in June 2017 after military veterans, some park neighbors and others turned out in standing room-only opposition at a public meeting to discuss Indiana Tech’s spring 2017 proposal to build a softball stadium, track-and-field complex, and athletics training and office building in Memorial Park. The university then withdrew its proposal.

The task force members include military veterans, community members and several parks department staff members. The group compiled a 25-page report that assessed current conditions in Memorial Park and provided a detailed list of recommended improvements.

The five benches and a new monument would be paid for with funds remaining from the local Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club’s donation of about $40,000 last year to replace 71 trees that originally were part of the park’s Memorial Grove, said Gary Perkey, Warrior Breed club president, who served on the Memorial Park Task Force and attended this morning’s park board meeting.

Over the years, a majority of the 135 trees originally planted in the Memorial Grove, along with some replacements, have died or been removed because of storm damage.

The five benches recommended for installation in the Memorial Grove would give people a place to sit while there. There is no seating in that area now.

The new monument would commemorate the partnership at Memorial Park between the Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club, which is made up of honorably discharged U.S. military veterans, and the parks department, Perkey said.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

The task force’s other recommendations include:

• Repairing and restoring monuments in the park.

Task force members recommended giving first priority to the currently headless Olen J. Pond memorial statue near the basketball courts, followed by the World War Triumphal Arch near the park entrance on Glasgow Avenue and then the Art “Bird Boy” Smith memorial in the Memorial Grove. The other monuments appear to be in good shape.

However, the task force recommends moving the Allen County Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which now stands on the east side of the park, to the west side of the park so all of the monuments in the Memorial Grove are World War I-related, Perkey said.

The Fort Wayne Daisies All-American Girls Professional Baseball League memorial, which is near the existing ball diamond, also would be moved to a more prominent location near ball diamond. The Daisies used to play home games at the ball diamond while playing in the league from 1945-1954.

If all of the monument restoration and relocation is done, the combined estimated cost would be about $434,000, the report said.

However, the parks department currently budgets only $50,000 per year for monument repair and restoration, so the department would need to raise money to make the repairs, Samek said.

• Adding paved, asphalt pathways to the monuments, none of which currently stands along a paved trail in the park. Total cost is estimated at about $104,000.

• Removing and replacing the landscaping around all of the park monuments. The report also recommends installing a plaque on a stone or concrete pedestal describing the purpose of the Memorial Grove and adding a large, stone Memorial Park sign on Maumee Avenue.

In addition, the task force recommends installing a bench beside the Pond memorial.

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