NEW MATAMORAS-Covering an area just over 2,800 square feet, Park Central in New Matamoras may be the smallest park in Washington County. But community members appreciate it.
"There was an old abandoned run-down building here before-when I was a kid we used to go inside, but you had to watch your step when climbing the stairs. It was falling apart," said village resident Kellie Lohr.
Fire destroyed that building in 2006 after a 14-year-old set a blanket ablaze on the second floor, and in 2007 the property was purchased by Bill Ruggieri of Beavertown who donated it to the community for development of a park. The park was completed in 2010.
"The building sat there for years before it burned and they finally tore it down. This is a lot better now," said Lohr's mother, Brenda Williams.
She said soup dinners and other events are held in the parklet throughout the year.
"People often take photos at the gazebo, and they come to read the names engraved on the park's brick walls," Lohr added.
Park Central pocket park
Located at 517 Second St. (Ohio 7) beside the U.S. Post Office in New Matamoras.
Park was built in 2010 on a 56 by 51-foot lot that was once the site of a building gutted by fire in 2006.
The facility is open to the public and is maintained by a group of citizens known as the Park Central Committee.
Funding for the park comes from fundraisers, donations, and the sale of engraved bricks in the park walls.
To order engraved bricks or learn more about the park, call 740-865-2248, or 865-3040.
In addition to the gazebo, Park Central includes paved walkways, benches, and the town clock which sits on the sidewalk directly in front of the park. And a concrete table there has been inlaid with a board for playing checkers.
The entire facility is enclosed by three high brick walls. Many of the bricks are engraved with memorials honoring veterans and loved ones. Some bricks memorialize historic sites in the village.
The engraved brick sales and other fundraisers like soup dinners and even a community yard sale help support the park's operation by the Park Central Committee, a small group of citizens who maintain the facilities.
"It's actually called a 'pocket park.' Five of us help maintain it, but anyone in the community is welcome to enjoy it," said John Miller, a member of the Park Central Committee.
He noted a major portion of the park, including the brick walls and sidewalks, would not have been possible without a $10,000 grant from the Sisters of St. Joseph organization.
Miller said at least three soup dinners are held annually, and proceeds go to support the pocket park.
"In fact we're having a soup bean dinner there next Saturday (Oct. 12)," he said. "We'll be cooking a large pot of beans over a portable fire pit right inside the park. We've had other soups, but a lot of people seem to like our soup beans dinners."
The park is also a central point in the annual Christmas in the Village celebration at New Matamoras, Miller said.
"We build a fire there where people can roast marshmallows and have a cup of hot chocolate," he said.
Miller said many people sit in the park and read their mail after picking it up at the post office next door.
"But we would also like to see more use of the park and gazebo, for weddings, reunions, or other gatherings," he said.
As for future projects at the park, Miller said he's hoping for installation of a large free-standing plaque with a map showing where many of the village's historic sites and buildings are located.