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Rotarians plan to build park, community sign

February 29, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

In the 1920s, members of the Rotary Club of Waynesboro decided to build a park to be used by borough residents.

Now, they're finally getting around to it.

The Rotarians are taking on the big project as their chapter's part in the 100th anniversary of Rotary International next year. Every chapter in the worldwide service organization is taking on a project in honor of the anniversary.

The local chapter was chartered in 1920 and has 83 members, including 15 women, chapter president Robert Zimmerman said.

The club plans to build its park and playground on 9 1/2 acres of borough-owned land near the Wayne Gardens subdivision. The field is bordered by Park and Eighth streets and Anthony and Fairview avenues.

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The borough bought the field in the 1970s for eventual use as a park and recreation facility, Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said last week. He said members of the borough's recreation board have met with the Rotarians on the project.

It's the same vacant field that became a center of controversy when the Stallions youth football team wanted to turn it into a playing field and concession stand two years ago. Protests by residents in the Wayne Gardens neighborhood became a major factor in the defeat of the project.

Harold G. Martin of 833 Anthony Ave., a leader in the effort to defeat the Stallions project, has given his blessings to the Rotary's project.

"It's marvelous," Martin said. "I haven't heard of any opposition to it in the neighborhood."

The park proposal has to go through the permit process, it needs engineering and architectural drawings and Rotary committees have to be appointed for the fund-raising effort, Zimmerman said.

Club members kicked around several ideas to celebrate their organization's centennial before settling on the park idea.

Zimmerman credited veteran Rotarian Edgar Hykes, 87, with encouraging the members to take on a big project for the anniversary.

"Ed raised our bar," Zimmerman said "He said, 'We're the Rotary Club. We can do more.'"

Hykes joined the club in 1944 and has a perfect attendance record. When he can't make a meeting of his own club, he makes it up somewhere else, often at clubs in Chambersburg, Pa., Greencastle, Pa., and Hagerstown, he said. When traveling, he attends wherever the Rotary meets.

"I've been to meetings in Hawaii and Alaska," he said.

The Rotarians envision the first phase of the park to include a modern playground, picnic pavilion, parking lots and a walking path around the perimeter. Later phases could include such features as horseshoe pits, volleyball courts and tennis courts.

"It could take several years to complete," Zimmerman said.

Other local organizations will be encouraged to take on projects in the park. The fund-raising effort will involve the community, as well as the pursuit of state and federal grants.

"It's open-ended, but we anticipate that it will all come together," said Roger Myers, chapter vice president.

The idea for a public park first surfaced among Rotary Club members in the 1920s when they decided to buy a three-acre tract and build a public park on it. The land is bordered by the first block of East Main Street, Mulberry Street and Gay Street. It was known as "The Acre," said Bill Spigler, past president of the chapter.

"It used to be a slum," he said. "Members of the Rotary and others took out $1,000 notes to buy the property."

The plan went awry when the Depression hit in the 1930s, Spigler said.

"Some of the members defaulted on their notes, so the Rotary donated the land to the borough," Spigler said.

The borough turned it into a parking lot. It's still known today as "the Rotary Parking Lot."

The club also is taking on a second centennial project in the form of a high-tech computerized sign framed in brick to be installed in the area of East Main Street and Roadside Avenue.

An anonymous donor has given the club $16,000 to build the sign. It will be used as a community bulletin board. The computer that will change the sign as needed will be operated in the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce office at 323 E. Main St.

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