Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nevin Park to Finally Get Fountain Restored

By Christina Georgiou

The fountain in Nevin Park, as it appeared about 100 years ago. It was
dismantled for maintenance in the 1920s, which never happened. The
iron fountain was later melted down for scrap during World War II.
A long-time plan to replace the pile of rocks that sits at the center of Nevin Park in Easton's College Hill neighborhood with a fountain reminiscent of the one that formerly graced the park is finally coming to fruition, and it will include the expansion of the Karl Stirner Arts Trail as well, it was announced at Wednesday evening's city council meeting.

The pile of rocks that sits today where the old fountain
used to be in
College Hill's Nevin Park.

It's been about 90 years since Nevin Park's fountain, originally erected in Downtown Easton's Centre Square in the 1860s as a celebration of clean water and moved to the park in 1899 to make way for the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil War monument, disappeared. Historic record says it was dismantled for maintenance in the 1920s, but the repairs never happened. Instead, it was melted down for scrap during World War II.

Residents have long lamented the antique fountain's loss, but a similar fountain of the same style will soon grace the park, thanks to the efforts of a committee of dedicated citizens.

CHNA president Hubert
Etchison outlines the
Nevin Park fountain
plan to Easton City Council
members Wednesday
 Hubert Etchison, president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, which spearheaded the effort, presented a plan to Easton City Council Wednesday evening outlining the plan.

The group considered both a custom-made restoration of the original fountain and the purchase of a ready-made piece. A low bid for a recreation of the original fountain came in for $367,500, which was far beyond the amount the group budgeted for the project.

"It would take a lot of yard sales to get there," Etchison said. "Unless someone wants to write us a check..."

However, the committee chanced upon an opportunity to buy a ready-made fountain, identical to one currently erected in Marietta, Georgia, for $37,500, Etchison said.

"The restoration of the fountain area in Nevin Park will provide a focal point for activity along the Karl Stirner Arts Trail, provide an adult-friendly vista, and aid in enhancing the economic growth of College Hill through increased traffic to its key business corridor" he said. "This vision and plan will highlight key historical aspects of Nevin Park and College Hill that might otherwise be lost."

The fountain the CHNA committee intends to purchase, as seen in its current
location in Marietta, Georgia.
The expansion of the trail will include new historic markers outlining the stories of key events in Easton's history. The marker project may include an audio project that could be completed by local middle- and high school students and would be playable on smartphones, Etchison said.

The graceful beauty of the fountain will add aesthetic appeal to the park, and also provide photographic opportunities at the park for things like weddings, Etchison said.

The walking trail would be extended from the base of College Hill on North Third Street up the hill and have two paths, one for "strong walkers" and another, longer route that would accomodate more leisurely paces.

The group has raised nearly $22,000 toward the effort, which in its entirety is expected to cost about $205,000

The city earmarked $75,000 in its capital improvements fund two years ago, Mayor Sal Panto said, with an agreement that the city would match citizens' fundraising efforts 2 to 1 and release the funds when the goal was realized.

About $31,000 in demolition, site prep work, and the preliminary utility installation work has been secured as in-kind donations, Etchison said.

The group hopes to secure $90,000 in grant funding, and will cover the estimated remaining $18,300 through further fundraising efforts, he added.

A map of the proposed extension through College Hill of the Karl Stirner
Arts Trail.

As part of the plan, the group also intends to create a refurbishment fund to cover the costs of future maintenance, expected to be needed about 25 years after the fountain's installation, to ensure it is properly kept in good working order for future generations.

The funds raised and pledged so far are enough for the CHNA committee to commit to buying the Marietta fountain and get the ball rolling, hopefully by July 1 of this year, Etchison said.

Getting to the point of seeing the fountain completely installed will likely take about a year. New piping and electrical lines need to be run in the area, and the pad needs to be replaced, he noted.

Marietta has been helpful too in providing advice for the future preservation of the fountain, Etchison said. Unlike the installation in Georgia, in Easton it will likely have a granite pool rim, which will help keep the fountain's iron in good condition, he said.

The extension plans for the Karl Stirner Arts Trail will likely take at least two years, said Easton Planning Director Becky Bradley.

To effect that change, the city's comprehensive plan, currently undergoing an update, will need to be modified, and the regional greenway plan will need to be updated as well, both processes that take time.

Additionally, some funds will likely need to be raised in addition to those already budgeted for, she said.

"Their vision is great," she said, enthusiastic about the plan.

Other officials were also very upbeat about the park upgrade and citizen involvement in extending the walking trail through the city.

"(The fountain) is one of the few things we can do for College Hill because they're not eligible for grant dollars," Panto said. "We're 100 percent on board at the administration."

Councilman Jeff Warren also praised the plan.

"This is truly a visionary project for College Hill," he said, noting that the pile of rocks currently in the fountain's place is one of his first memories of the city. "Believe me, I'll be happy to see it go, but it does hold some fond memories for me."

Etchison credited committee members for their persistance and dedication to the effort.

"There's no way we would have gotten here without our volunteers," he said.

An old photo of the original fountain, as seen in Easton's Centre Square, before it was moved to Nevin Park in 1899 to make way for the Soldiers' and Sailors' monument, which still stands in its place today.

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