New Fort Loramie park takes shape

By Patricia Ann Speelman -

FORT LORAMIE — The residents of Fort Loramie are about to get a new park.

“It was a field three months ago,” laughed Craig Drees, president of the Redskin Memorial Park Board. The field is on the east side of the village, just off state Route 705, across from Fort Loramie High School. Some seven years ago, the village purchased the land from Lisa and Dave Ruhenkamp, who in turn had purchased it from Ben Aslage expressly to create a park there. But there were no funds to develop it.

That changed in 2016.

“Then Sen. Keith Faber asked if we had special projects, recreational projects, for state funding,” said Village Administrator Tony Schmitmeyer. “I applied for half a million dollars and we were awarded that. That’s what really got the park moving now.”

Several interested parties had met early on to discuss what was needed in a park and to design it. So, when the board formed in June 2016, talks focused on how to raise the additional $2 million to construct it.

The 26-acre park will comprise two diamonds for adult softball, two youth diamonds, a concession stand, a picnic shelter, a playground, a heated and air conditioned pavilion with a fireplace, two volleyball courts and a walking path through the woods.

The path has already been installed and gets heavy use, Schmitmeyer said. A sidewalk from the park to Fort Loramie’s newest housing development makes it easy for residents to access the trail.

Focused fundraising began in March 2017 and to date, the board is three-quarters of the way to its goal. Board members include Drees, Vice President Ryan Homan, Vice President of Finance Diane Meyer, Secretary Lisa Benanzer, Treasurer jeanne Hoying, Schmitmeyer and Fort Loramie Mayor Randy Ahlers.

Drees credits Meyer with the success of the funding drive.

“She really took this personal. She brings credibility to the table, especially with businesses. Businesses have gone above and beyond in terms of donations,” he said. “We need individuals to finish this project, because businesses have done their share.”

As monies have become available, some areas of the park have been started. The foundation has been poured for the concession stand. Grass seed has been sown for all four softball diamonds and the diamonds have been fenced.

“Volunteers showed up to help put the fence up. They tied a few thousand wire ties,” Drees said. Volunteers have put in more than 600 hours of time at the site.

“We’re getting a quote for the pavilion this week,” Drees added. The building will be available to the public for parties, receptions, and other social gatherings.

The construction of the Fort Loramie Elementary School wiped out the village’s adult softball fields.

“One thing this will bring back is adult softball,” Schmitmeyer said. In fact, a Thursday night men’s softball league will begin play, May 10, according to Drees, and an alumni softball tournament is scheduled for August.

The park is one of several recent efforts to enhance Fort Loramie.

“There are different things we’re doing. We did the downtown. That’s the front door to the village. This will be another thing people see when they enter the village. It will be a showcase for the village,” Schmitmeyer said.

Residents are obviously excited about the project. A fundraising auction, Saturday, sold out without advertising three months in advance. Donations can be paid over a four-year period, but many of them have been paid in full already.

Anyone donating $1,000 or more will be credited on a donor wall in the park. Gifts of all amounts are welcome. To make a donation, visit the Redskin Memorial Park Facebook page for a donor form.

By Patricia Ann Speelman

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.