When Sidney Rotary Club President Duane Gaier rang the bell at the start of Monday’s meeting, he announced that he would be pulling double duty – not only would he preside at the meeting, but he was presenting the program for the weekly gathering. The meeting was held in Sidney’s beautiful Tawawa Park in the shelter house the Rotary Club constructed atop Bertsch Hill last year.
The meeting date coincided with Rotary International’s celebration of the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, observed on September 21. Historic Sidney Theatre Executive Director and Rotarian Sarah Barr reminded Rotarians that they would receive a blue pin wheel for a contribution of $8.00 as part of the $25,000 being raised in Rotary District 6670 so that the district can be designated a Peace District.
Rotarian and United Way Executive Director Scott Barr announced that the United Way is working with the Sidney Schools to place adults in the elementary schools as kindergarten tutors. He is asking that Rotarians consider spending an hour tutoring in a school at least one hour every two weeks so that Sidney Rotary can “adopt” a school and make a difference in our young students. Rotarian and Deputy Fire Chief Cam Haller is chairing the effort.
Gaier noted that Tawawa Park is the “crown jewel” of Sidney’s 450 acre park system. He noted that next year would be the 70th anniversary of the park, and paid credit to the individuals who purchased the original acreage and then turned it over to the city to be used as a park. “Most of the great cities in this country do not have anything equal to this park,” Gaier told the Rotarians.
Shortly after Gaier’s presentation began, walnuts falling from a nearby tree came crashing to earth, narrowly missing Gaier. He jumped and then quipped “Food for the squirrels,” as he began talking about the Parks and Recreation Department’s summer food program.
“We provided a total of 7,012 meals that were served from June 5 through August 11 at eight different locations throughout the community,” Gaier stated. He also added that 2,014 meals were sent home with children through the Summer Backpack Program. “The meals are provided though funds provided by churches, organizations and individuals,” Gaier noted.
Gaier highlighted the 27 different programs provided for the community’s youth this summer. The free programs ranged from the always popular Fishing Derby for students Kindergarten through 8th grade during which prizes are awarded for the most fish, the largest fish, and the smallest fish. “For those who may not know how to fish, there is a Pre-fishing Derby,” Gaier explained.
“Another great summer-time park activity is Storytime in the Park. Sponsored in conjunction with Amos Memorial Public Library, the program moves to a different park every week,” Gaier stated.
“Another session kids look forward to year after year is Art in the Park. Cosponsored by the Gateway Arts Council, participants make a different project each day,” Gaier said. “From hiking to finding creatures in the creek to making bird houses, there is a huge variety of programs for kids during the summer months.”
Gaier provided those in attendance with some quick statistics. “We have 450 acres of parkland, 45 shelters, 24 play structures, and 18 neighborhood parks. But my department is also responsible for maintaining the Senior Center, Graceland Cemetery and nearly 200 acres of non-park land we mow but do not own, or own but is under the jurisdiction of another department such as the water treatment plant, the fire stations, and city hall.” Gaier specifically mentioned land owned by CSX along Lincoln Street that the city mows and then bills CSX.
Gaier expressed appreciation to Emerson, who provided five play structures for park use during the Great Recession, and Honda, who provided an additional play structure.
Gaier also expressed appreciation to the Dayton Power & Light Company, who provided grant funding last year for trees. “The Emerald Ash Borer killed more than one thousand Ash trees in Tawawa Park alone. The grant allowed us the opportunity to replace about ten percent of the trees lost,” Gaier noted.
Gaier praised the park ranger, who patrols the city’s parks on an alternating schedule. “Sometimes he works four ten hour days, sometimes he works five eight hour days, and sometimes a combination so that no one can know for certain when he will be at any specific location,” Gaier explained. “He has full police powers, and occasionally has backed up the police department’s officers, just as they occasionally back him up.”
Gaier briefly discussed the Zenas King bridge that will be relocated to the park and placed across Amos Lake. “The bridge is historically significant,” Gaier stated, “and it will be a welcome addition to Tawawa Park.
Gaier commented on the recent expansion of Graceland Cemetery before answering questions about when a dog park might be constructed, the biennial Civil War Living History Weekend, the Mayfest Soccer Classic, and a host of other park-related topics.
Rotary is an international service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services. The Sidney Rotary Club meets weekly on Mondays at noon at the Moose Lodge.