Church assumes management of Gate Way Park in Liberty

March 15, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - The Gate Way Park is now under the management of Sacred Heart and St. Bernard Catholic churches.

After much discussion over the past few weeks between the churches and city and county governments, the Rev. Thomas R. Clark has announced that a lease between the churches and the county would not be renewed.

The county park board, made up of members in the community, has been dissolved and both governments agreed that funds from the county would no longer be available for the park at the junction of U.S. 127 and Ky. 70.

A public meeting is scheduled 7 p.m. March 23 at the park to talk about future plans.

The county has contributed money and assisted in securing grants to help finance the park since it leased the facility more than 20 years ago, said county Judge-Executive Ronald Wright. Volunteers also have helped build a community center and renovate an old barn for offices which have been used by the local Chamber of Commerce and tourism agency. A playground, tennis courts and softball fields also have been built and the parking lot paved.


The county has paid insurance on the facility and also helped with mowing.

The Archdiocese in Louisville wanted to make changes in a lease held by Fiscal Court, which the court did, but they were unacceptable, Wright said.

"The county is out of the picture now," the judge-executive said. "We will continue to support the park, but as far as being financially involved, I don't believe we (Fiscal Court) can continue support to the park."

A new board of directors will be created to oversee the park, according to a news release from Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

"I feel this is an exceptional opportunity for the citizens of Casey County," the Rev. Thomas R. Clark, pastor of the churches, said. "We are creating a new board of directors and are inviting all interested members of the community to come join us in recreating Gate Way Park."

Clark said after months of study, meetings and discussion it was decided that the park needed to return to its original vision of serving every segment of Casey County.

Plans are to revitalize the facility

Frank Tomero, interim director of the park, said plans are to revitalize the facility. "We're looking to get the community involved and start up monthly activities like a farmer's market, flea market, community garden, arts and crafts displays and increase senior and youth activities," he said. The plans are in addition to the current softball and baseball activities which Mike Luttrell oversees.

Tomeo said community leaders agree that the park's revival is in the best interest of everyone. Besides the sports programs already offered, the community center has great potential for student and school-related functions, including music, dance and drama. Tomeo agrees that the community center offers a wonderful venue for various events, programs and activities and wants to make it more accessible to area residents.

"Gate Way Park is one of the few venues in Casey County that can accommodate performing arts and events and we want to fill up our calendar with fun community enrichment programs," he said. " And we are actively encouraging people to get involved and come forward with ideas for Gate Way Park."

"We have a wonderful jewel in this community that sometimes goes unrecognized," said Clark. "And we want to polish it to its full potential."

Situated on land along Green River, the tract was given to the church for a park in 1981 by Iva Dean Pittman, whose husband was born in Casey County. The property was leased by the county for residents to have a place to gather for events, said Tomero.

Tomeo said several issues, including the lack of needed repairs on equipment, buildings and grounds, and the operation of the park caused the church to make recommendations about the lease.

He said the church is not willing to allow the park to operate as it has been done in the past, and wants to get the park to run on a business-like basis. However, funds to make the changes will be needed to make the park a non-profit self-supported operation.

"We don't want to make money, and hope to get help from the city and county plus volunteers to help run the park," Tomeo said.

"We'd also like to start a Friends of the Park group to help out," he said. He added there is probably enough money in the park budget to operate for several months.

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