History of park, recognition of volunteers planned

In just six short days in the fall of 1999, Frankfort residents, community leaders and local businesses came together to build Fort Frankfort. That same group will come back together to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the park on Saturday, Oct. 10.

The group, Operation Playground, is responsible for the park and was formed at the time Fort Frankfort was built. The 10-year anniversary celebration is a time to remember the history of the park and not let Frankfort residents forget, said Phil Simmons, an original Operation Playground member.

“Ten years is the perfect time,” he said. “It’s far away enough to celebrate but close enough to gather everyone together that was responsible for this park.”

Terry Rusin, who was a park commissioner at the time, is responsible for Fort Frankfort.

In 1998, the Frankfort Park District acquired 60 acres, which is now Commissioners Park, but Simmons said they had exhausted their funds from the purchase and didn’t have the money to do anything with the land, until Rusin came up with an idea.

“About 11 years ago I had been visiting my parents in the upper peninsula and there was a Leathers [and Associates, a consulting company] Playground being built with the support of the community,” Rusin said. “I thought this was such a good idea, I spoke with the Frankfort Park District about doing such a project in one of their parks.”

From there, Rusin took charge of the project and called an organizational committee, which decided on a target completion date of October 1999.

“We had about 10 different committees to work on various aspects of the playground from collecting tools and materials, volunteers, advertisement, food, childcare, fundraising and design,” she said. “On the week of the build, we had approximately 800 volunteers that came out throughout the week.”

On Oct. 10, Operation Playground and the Frankfort Park District will celebrate during the day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free events for children including inflatables, carnival games and music by DJ Don. The children’s events are all sponsored by the Frankfort Park District.

From 6-11 p.m., Operation Playground will sponsor a dinner and entertainment for adults only. Tickets are $25 each. During the event past and present volunteers will be recognized and Operation Playground plans to celebrate their commitment to the original construction on Fort Frankfort.

“This is just a way to say thank you to the volunteers who are still a vital part of the park,” Kathy Tinker, of Operation Playground said. “We have a maintenance day every year, when volunteers re-paint, re-stain and bring in more mulch. That’s why 10 years later Fort Frankfort looks like it’s still in great shape.”

For more information about the event call Terry Rusin at (815) 469-2548.

To reach Colleen, e-mail at c.sheehan@22ndcenturymedia.com.