George Griffith and Jack Costello would be amazed. What to them was little more than the tree-shaded site of a babbling spring, feeding a backwater of a much more meandering Luta Creek, has become the center of Marion’s universe this month, hosting thousands for Art in the Park last weekend and thousands more for Old Settlers’ Day this weekend.
Griffith, who 151 years ago built the first permanent shanty in Marion County, near the current Marion Public Library, probably had not even a glimmer of hope that his homestead here would lead to the formation of a city, even though decades before him, bands of native peoples had congregated just a mile or two north, in numbers rivaling those of present day Wichita,
Costello, who 136 years ago became the first mayor of what then was known as Marion Centre, might have envisioned a slightly more special use for the riverside springs and park, but the thought of thousands of visitors coming to pursue arts and crafts, followed a week later by thousands of former residents reuniting with classmates, was probably beyond his dreams.
Marion’s Central Park, whether you believe it should or should not have the name Brooker attached to it, in recognition of the Brooker family’s generous gift to restore the historic springs, is clearly the city’s crown jewel. Marion’s PRIDE committee this week rightfully made enhancements to the park one of its top priorities. It is Marion’s signature feature, its central rallying point, and perhaps one of the few things everyone agrees needs to be preserved, protected, and enhanced.
All that’s needed now are vision and resources. Some will come from people now living in town, but some are likely to come from old settlers — or, if you will, from gracefully aging classmates visiting the park this weekend.
If you’re in town for the event — and why shouldn’t you be? — now is the time to come to the aid of the park you valued as a child and still use as an adult. Marion’s park needs you as much as you appreciate it.
— ERIC MEYER