Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fort Wayne: Headwaters Park

Fort Wayne: Headwaters Park

I was taking my dog, Reese for a walk this morning. We have multiple walks a day but I try to have at least two of them by one of our three rivers. Fort Wayne has the St. Mary’s River on the south side and the St. Joseph River on the north side. They converge downtown to form the Maumee River which then flows to Toledo Ohio and Lake Erie. We generally walk around the banks of the St Mary’s.

However, this morning we go downtown to Headwaters Park. This is Reese’s favorite walk because there is so much to see. The park was planned one hundred years ago but only completed in 1999. It is the gateway to downtown. When we first moved to Fort Wayne the area consisted of a few factories and a road. Today it is a beautiful park that houses numerous festivals. It’s primary function however is to be a giant sponge in the event of catastrophic floods.

The east side of the park has statues, meandering paths, and a covered pavilion that is the home of the ice skating rink in the winter and of entertainment during festivals. There is a fountain that kids play in, different areas of green, bushes and trees. There is the circle of statues of the Hamilton Women. They were movers and shakers in early Fort Wayne history. Edith write a textbook on Greek and Roman mythology titled, The Greek Way. Alice was an industrial physician and reformer for worker safety. Agnes, their cousin was a painter and child advocate. She was one of the founders of the Fort Wayne YWCA. Finally, Ermine Holman Hamilton helped found the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Wayne, the Public Library and donated land for the first African-American church in the city. She was also active in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The statues are beautiful and Reese likes to walk around them.

There is an impressive statue of Little Turtle, the leader of the Miami Nation. Fort Wayne was known as Kekionga at the time. Little Turtle was a threat to the colonies and defeated two of George Washington’s generals until General “Mad” Anthony Wayne came in and subdued the area. Little Turtle is buried a few blocks from this park.

To the north and the east is the newly formed Maumee River. A large wooden bridge crosses the bridge, on the other side is “The Old Fort”. It is a reconstructed “Fort Wayne”. The French had two forts in the area, the Brits had a fort and the Americans had three forts here. None were at this location! However, it is impressive to walk up to a wooden, stockade fort with out buildings beyond the stockades. Several times a year Revolutionary Re-enactors gather with their tents, fires and goods. It is a great place.

The river is home to fish, turtles, beaver, muskrat, song birds, and birds of pray. However, my favorite is the Huron. Watching Huron fly down the middle of a river with its enormous wing span as it follows the bends in the river is breath-taking. Reese just likes to hunt for bunnies, possum, raccoon and squirrel. In eleven years she has never caught anything but she always notices them.

The west side of the park has another pavilion, a terraced outdoor auditorium and beautiful gardens. The brick wall marks the high of the Flood of 1988. This was a historic flood that severed the city. Schools were closed so that high schoolers, along with workers and service groups could sand bag. President Reagan was here and named us “The City that Saved Itself”.

To the north is Frieman Square next to the Performing Arts Building and the Art Museum. Kitty corner is the Court House Square. My daughter Kerri sang with her school for the dedication of the courtyard. My daughter Ashley was in Civil Air Patrol and as part of the Color Guard helped the late Governor O’Bannon dedicate Headwaters Park.

Memories of the Flood of 82

We park next to the Skateboard Park, Reese loves to watch the extreme sports duds.

Fort Wayne Skatepark

The park is loaded with history. This is the city of the French Fur Trade. It is the center for the early railroads, early industry and mills. This is the site of “Jail Flats” and from this site you can see the new jail. This was the site of Shanty Town during the Great Depression. This was the site of the first professionally organized league baseball game. The Fort Wayne Kekiongas beat the Cleveland Foresters 2-0.

However, for Reese and me it is just an opportunity to walk in the quiet. To take in the smells and sounds of a city waking up, to look for critters and to enjoy one another’s company. Last week we would have referred to this as a "sacramental walk".


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