Gunn Park Invites Community Members and Events

With the arrival of spring and even warmer months to come, the city of Fort Scott encourages residents and visitors to take advantage of the amenities provided at Gunn Park.

“What an awesome park we have here,” City Manager Dave Martin said during the Chamber Coffee Thursday morning, when codes enforcement manager Rhonda Dunn spoke of the history of the park.

Dunn said she has heard that Gunn Park is the largest, city-owned park in the state of Kansas, with 155 acres that include two lakes, seven shelter houses, a number of playgrounds, a disc golf course, dog park, trails and the Marmatton River.

In the early 1900s, Gunn Park was privately owned land and only Fern Lake existed, with a wooden pavilion building and the remainder of the current park property being used as farmland. According to records, the park was frequently used by the community who came for swimming, diving, boat rentals and five cent trolley rides.

William Gunn, who found success in real estate and invested greatly in Fort Scott in the early 1900s, purchased the land and gave it to the city, with records quoting him as saying he believed the park should belong to the city and should always be free to visitors.

“We are the benefactors of an incredible gift,” Dunn said of Gunn’s gift more than a century ago.

Since accepting that gift, the city has maintained the park as well as made a number of changes. Dunn encourages businesses and residents to consider Gunn Park when planning for events such as parties or family reunions, adding she would like to see the community present at the park more frequently.

Those interested in reserving one of the shelter houses, two of which now have heating and air, can contact city hall.

Patty LaRoche: Called to Listen

No matter how squeamish you are, I recommend you see the movie “Hacksaw Ridge.” Even though the war scenes are graphically gruesome—I closed my eyes—the message to rely on God far exceeds any blood-and-guts cinematography.

If ever someone’s Christian convictions dictated his decisions, it was Desmond Doss’s. In the opening scene, Doss is reading aloud from Isaiah 40:31: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. That verse becomes his life refrain.

After joining the army to work as a medic in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, Doss relentlessly defends his belief not to shoot a gun, kill the enemy or work on the Sabbath. (Hard to do in war, and especially difficult to convince your army buddies you deserve to serve alongside them.) Doss’s bunkmates despise him. As they practice their sharp-shooting skills, he reads his Bible. In their eyes, they are asked to protect a young, skinny medic who refuses to carry his fair load.

Because of that, Doss is beaten, persecuted and charged with “mental instability.” After arguing for his First Amendment rights—the freedom “to be like Christ: saving life instead of taking it”—he wins his court martial case and is allowed to go into battle.

Only when he is in a foxhole with Smitty, the soldier who led the bunkhouse assault against him, does Doss reveal why he abhors violence: as an adolescent, he had pulled a gun on his alcoholic father who was beating his mother. The foxhole partners soon realize they have many things in common. As a friendship is formed, the Japanese attack.

In the ensuing battle, Smitty is killed. The American soldiers are forced to abandon the area, leaving their wounded behind.

Doss desperately pleads with God. “What do you want of me? I don’t understand! I can’t hear you!” At that moment, Doss hears a cry from a wounded soldier. His answer has come. Doss stands, says “Alright,” straps on his helmet, and as his fellow soldiers retreat, walks back into battle. Alone.

That scene plays out multiple times as Doss begs God to allow him to save “just one more.” Each time, as an injured fighter cries out, Doss belly crawls to follow the voice of the wounded. Exposing himself to heavy gun and mortar fire, he drags severely injured men to the edge of the ridge, ties a rope around their bodies and lowers them to the waiting medics below.

Because of Doss’s bravery and faith in God, he is able, over a twelve-hour period, to save 75 wounded comrades. This courageous action and others earn Doss America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, the first ever given to a conscientious objector.

Doss had begged for an audible voice from God; instead, he received his answer amidst the cries of the desperate people around him. So what are we to take from this?

If we want to hear God’s voice, maybe it’s as simple as paying attention. To our neighbors. Our friends. Our families. Our enemies. Just like God called Doss to do the impossible, perhaps he wants the same from us.

The question remains: Are we interested enough to listen?

City Moves Forward with Redevelopment Plan for Woods Building

During the Fort Scott City Commission meeting Tuesday evening, the commissioners agreed to create a redevelopment district at the former Woods building, allowing developers to move forward with their plans for the structure.

Economic Development Director Rachel Pruitt said she has been working to bring in a grocery store and is now working on a deal with Queen’s Price Chopper, a family business since 1974 that has five other locations.

Joel Riggs, real estate director for Associated Wholesale Grocers and part of Super Market Developers, said the groups involved are moving as quickly as possible in order to have the grocery and retail store open by November.

“This is kind of the first step in a pretty long process in moving forward to try to redevelop the property that was formerly Woods Grocery Store,” Riggs said, saying the physical redevelopment is scheduled to begin in July.

With the city’s approval, a public hearing was set for the community to be involved and voice any concerns they have in the planning process. The first public hearing is set for May 2, with another to follow on June 20.

“It is a big project,” Riggs said. “It’s important to us…We are going to do everything in our power to move this forward as quickly as we can, but following all the rules and regulations that we need to.”

Riggs said it is a complex financing plan, utilizing Tax Increment Financing bonds, a public financing method that could waive the impact of certain taxes on the zone for a period of time as an incentive. Pruitt said the city will be working with the county and Unified School District 234, as the three taxing entities must come to an agreement on the TIF Redevelopment District.

Dr. Rick Kellenberger, owner of the Dairy Queen located near the Woods building, said they are looking forward to having new neighbors invested in that area.

“It looks pretty desolate up there right now,” Kellenberger said. “So we’re looking forward to that whole area blossoming and hopefully developing and being a one-stop area with all the retail that we have there.”

Other News:

  • The city gave an update on Memorial Hall, with Pruitt saying they may be nearing a sales agreement with Last Farmhouse Films, Inc.
  • A representative from 4-State Sanitation said they will begin providing a drop-off point for recycling beginning on April 3.
  • The commission gave their approval to allow alcohol sales during the Independence Day event to be held at the LaRoche Baseball Complex this summer.

Bourbon County Landfill Accepts Tires

The Bourbon County Landfill is now accepting old tires as part of a tire program, allowing county residents to drop off the tires at no cost to them.

The program, whose goal is to clean up the county as well as remove potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, will continue at the landfill through April 23, with specific weekends scheduled for other towns outside of Fort Scott.

“It’s off and running,” Eric Bailey said of the program during Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

Public Works Director Jim Harris said he believes they will be able to collect a number of tires, and said he hopes people get involved.

“We want everyone to bring them out because we don’t want them in the ditches,” Harris said of the old tires. “It’s an excellent program.”

Only passenger vehicle tires will be accepted and no more than seven tires at a time, except with a signed affidavit proving they are owned by the individual and not by any retailer or automotive business.

The landfill will be open its normal hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Other collection points will be held on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the fire stations in other communities including Bronson on April 1, Uniontown on April 8, Mapleton on April 22, Garland on April 29, Hiattville on May 6, and Redfield on May 13.