By Les Smith, Park Board (Feb. 8th, 2000, Red Oak Express)
College Park has the spotlight shine on it this week. Consisting of an entire city block, College Park is believed to be the second oldest park in Red Oak.
Curious about the name of the park, given its location and topographical make up, the thought occurred that maybe a college had once been there but burned to the ground. In Shenandoah, two community colleges (located at the present junior high) met with that kind of devastating inferno earlier in this century. But this was not the case here.
Local legend has a citizen donating the land to the city of Red Oak during its formative years, with the stipulation that the land be used for the construction of a college. Verification of this legend seems to be non-existent. Information provided by Mrs. Margery Martin, former park board chairman, has this excerpt from the book “History of Montgomery County” (circa 1881):
“A block of ground between Seventh and Eighth and Corning and Hammond Streets, being 240 X 270 feet is marked College ground, and is to be given to any respectable college organization that will locate and build there.”
This indicated that the land was to be enticement by the city to get a college to settle here in Red Oak. An institution of higher learning would not have to worry about finding land for the school. The land would be there for the taking. Unfortunately, no college took advantage of the offer as colleges grew in size over the years, the side of the land offer did not. Thus the chance of a college locating there became slim to none. Bus as the saying goes, their loss was our gain.
For much of this century, College was a very modest park with just a few benches placed amongst the trees and grass. In 1966, the park board wanted to sell off the park and tried to get the city council’s blessing. But the council stonewalled the park board for over four months until the subject of selling College Park was no longer an issue.
In 1972, playground equipment was put in the park for the first time. This was made possible thanks to Mrs. Bob Maurer. She presented to the park board an offer to purchase equipment using her late husband’s memorial money. Mr. Maurer drove a school bus for many years and was very fond of the children he would drive to and from school. Mrs. Maurer felt that children would enjoy having playground equipment at the park. The park board accepted Mrs. Maurer’s offer to purchase a swing set, mountain climber and a merry flyer. They were installed on the east side of the park later that year.
This equipment, like that in Fountain Square, saw nearly 25 fun-filled years before it became necessary to replace it in the fall of 1997 with more modern equipment that complied with current safety regulation. The swing set remained, how every in the fall of 1998 it was repositioned to the north of the current equipment. A retaining wall was built to prevent erosion of the fall material under the swing and to help level the area. Even though the mountain climber and the merry flyer are no longer there, the generosity of Mrs. Bob Maurer to use her late husband’s memorial fund to buy this equipment is still appreciated by the community of Red Oak. And by countless number of children who spent numerous hours having fun at College Park.
When she taught first grade, park board member (and kindergarten teacher) Teresa Euken had her class involved with College Park. They planted flowers on the east side of the playground, in a flower bed built below the retaining wall. This contribution by the children added beauty and eye-catching color to the park. The board is grateful for this selfless act and you folks are more than welcome to come to board meetings and share your ideas on how you can help beautiful your parks (hint, hint).
A new grill has been added giving you another reason to go to College Park, that is. There’s just something about the smell and taste of food hot off the grill. And the surrounding view you have at the park makes your day at the park that much better, even if you live just across the street.
One possible improvement to the park is a water line rerouted into College for a drinking fountain. If a drinking fountain project is accomplished at Dutton Park, a similar project could be tried here at College. But other projects, time and money will determine whether this idea becomes reality. And if this idea does not happen this year, like and Chicago Cubs fan will tell you, there’s always next year.The Park Board encourages one and all to take the opportunity to visit College Park, as well as the other parks Red Oak had to offer. They are yours to enjoy.