As Palmyra celebrates its bicentennial, it seemed to be appropriate to share some remembrances of the early days of Flower City Park.
This letter will also serve to honor those who have passed on, Jaycees and others, who were instrumental in seeing the community’s beautiful park established. If anything is incorrectly remembered, please forgive.
The Palmyra Jaycees received their charter in 1965. We were a very energetic young group and we were anxious to start a project that would benefit the whole community. After much discussion and planning, we felt a need for a park.
At that time the only park in Palmyra was the small one south of the power plant now known as Big Spring Park. There was only one ball field in the community, at the north end of the football field.
By 1968, Palmyra’s Jaycee membership was 50 strong of men ages 18-40, and we had a lot of energy and ambition! Also, by way of explanation, in the early days of Jaycees or “The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce,” ladies had their own separate group, sometimes called the “JC-ettes!”
Mayor Lynn Hutcherson and the city council were approached about the Jaycee’s idea of a project to establish a park for the community. The council suggested 37 acres, which were part of the Shade farm.
Forty acres, known as the Maddox property, were later added by the city. Well Nature Park has rounded out the current acreage of our beautiful Flower City Park.
The first work began with a groundbreaking in 1968, followed by basic road construction into the park. Many individuals and organizations helped with donations, equipment and physical labor.
The Jaycees removed fencing and did a general clean up of the property.
Nathan Shimp (Port Industries) provided equipment and manpower to trench for about 1,000 feet for a 4” water line into the park with help from the Board of Public Works and other volunteers.
The first ball field was built by Russ Sandifer who donated use of a bulldozer, with Jaycees paying for the gas and operators. Leo Bross was the land-leveler.
The first bequest of funds was received from Dr. Heitman, DDS, along with other bequests and contributions from many more community groups in the years following.
A federal “Outdoor Recreation Grant” was used to build the first shelter, a multi-purpose court and the first restrooms supported the progress on the park.
The first children’s playground was also added around that time. The three columns in the gazebo are from the old Merchants Hotel, north of the post office.
As the Jaycees had spearheaded work on the park, for a time it was known as “The Jaycee Park”.
But, because so many had supported the effort, a community-wide contest was held to choose a name for the new park.
Of the 28 names submitted for the new park, five were chosen as the finalists including: William Russell Memorial Park, The Palmyra Community Park, Green Hills Recreation Park, Van Land Park and Flower City Park.
Those names were attached to containers around town and the one with the most pennies donated for a name won.
A young lady by the name of Ann Godman had submitted the winning name of “Flower City Park.”
The Jaycees sponsored “Park Day” on May 24, 1970, as a formal dedication of the new park. The guest speaker for the event was U.S. Rep. William “Bill” Hungate, from Missouri.
The progress of Flower City Park since its very early days is truly amazing! We should all be very proud of the park and the wonderful additions and improvements that have been made since 1968.
Kudos to Doug Meyers, current park director, the current and former members of the park and fair boards, city leaders, as well as all the many others who have made the park a very special place to enjoy.