Rotary Park officially opens

Apr. 3—A little sleet, a little rain and a lot of wind didn't stop the Washington Rotary Club from officially cutting the ribbon for Rotary Park located at National Highway or Business 50 and Meridian Street.

The project has been several years in the making and was made possible through the work of club members as well as the community.

"I think this idea really started when the city was in the process of taking over Business 50," said Rotarian Joe Wellman who was mayor when the possibility of the project first came to mind. "That's been a few years ago now."

When work actually began on updating Business 50, current Mayor and Rotarian Dave Rhoads said the city acquired the property to make way for a new stoplight and more user-friendly intersection.

"Most remember the building that sat here as a former store that was later turned into housing. It was very close to the highway so to make the curve in the highway and intersection wider and safer, the city acquired it and tore it down," said Rhoads, who asked the club members if they would be interested in doing something with the property to promote to the service club and create a nice space at the busy intersection.

Frank Guratzsch, who may be best known for his work with the club's annual cherry tree planting, was instrumental in bringing the design for the corner spot to life.

"We discussed a lot of different ideas and designs," he said, adding the club worked with local businesses including Wichman's Landscaping, Taber-Owens Construction, Eaton Monument and Bill Dobson Graphics on the project.

Scott Sell was then challenged with leading the efforts to raise around $30,000 to bring the design on paper to life.

"One of our committee members, Cindy Barber, know about a state program that would provide matching funds for community improvement projects. So we took on a large fundraising effort through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority in conjunction with Patronicity," said Sell, who said through CreatIng Places, the club was able to garner donations from the public to match the funding from IHCDA.

AJ Miles, who was club president when the project first started, said fixing up the corner and giving the club a little recognition was a win-win.

"It's the perfect example of what being a Rotarian is about. We are leaving world better than we found it," said Miles.

The garden at the quaint park features more than two dozen flowers and trees that will show color throughout the year as well as benches and a walkway made from bricks recognizing local Rotarians who are recognized as Paul Harris Fellows for gifting $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation to help fight polio around the world. Two benches as well as signage on Rotary help create the welcoming space.

Rhoads said the city, which will help with some of the maintenance on the green space, was happy to partner with Rotary to create the space for everyone to enjoy.

"This is great addition to the city," said Rhoads.

Current club president Jeremy Adams said Rotary is no stranger to projects.

"We are service club so we are always looking for ways to enhance the community through the projects we do," he said, adding Rotary also sponsors a speech contest and scholarships in addition to the annual cherry tree planting. "We hope people stop to take a look and spend a little time here."