Community leads effort for new park
HUNTINGTON — Plans are taking shape on Huntington's Southside for a small park to memorialize the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
Miller Elementary Memorial Park will be built on the former elementary school property, which the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District purchased from the Cabell County Board of Education for $100,000 in June. Huntington resident Jim St. Clair and his son, Sam St. Clair, provided the funds to the Park District to purchase the property, located at 12th Avenue and 7th Street.
Funds to purchase the materials needed for the park, estimated at $30,000, will be raised through private donations. Sterling Hall, former owner of Huntington Steel, and the Southside Neighborhood Association have agreed to lead the fundraising effort, said Kevin Brady, the Park District's executive director.
The Park District's Board of Commissioners approved the design for the park Wednesday and the structure under which it will be maintained.
Most of the property will be green space for youth sports teams and community members to use, Brady said. More green space is needed in that neighborhood because the open space at Ritter Park is so widely used, he said.
A small portion of the Miller property next to 7th Street, however, will be used to honor the 20 students and six teachers and administrators who were slain during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month. Hall said a friend gave him the idea recently, and he liked it so much that he went to Brady and the St. Clairs to explore the possibility of planting 26 trees on the Miller property. The discussion led to a park design created by Edward Tucker Architects.
"We have such short memories these days," Hall said. "We're going to forget this incident if we don't do something, and that would be a tragedy in itself."
The design calls for six large trees that will be planted in the park along 7th Street to honor the teachers and administrators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. The children who died in the incident will be memorialized with 20 dogwood tress that will surround a small courtyard area. The courtyard will include park benches and a monument of some sort to recognize the school shooting victims. The entrance will feature an etched, concrete sign that was saved from Miller Elementary.
Brady told the park board commissioners the Southside Neighborhood Association will maintain the courtyard after it is completed. The Park District will help haul soil to the property to establish the green space and has agreed to maintain it.
"Everyone understands that there is no capital investment from the park system on this project," Board President Don McCroskey said.
The park is the latest recreational endeavor for Hall. He also has made financial contributions for the Ritter Park fountain and for new trees along 13th Avenue in front of Ritter Park.
"I remember the city when there were tree-lined streets everywhere," he said. "You look around now and notice that we've cut so many trees down but have done nothing to replace them. I know trees have a life expectancy and can eventually become a safety hazard, but it's time we put as much of an emphasis on planting new trees as well."
Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.