About 150 community companions gathered on a sunny afternoon for the unveiling of a happy gathering place for all.
Vermilion officials on Thursday debuted Friendship Park, located at Grand Street and Liberty Avenue, next to Ritter Public Library.
“It was a vision of many to have a park here,” Vermilion Mayor Eileen Bulan told those in attendance during a 30-minute christening ceremony. “We are here to dedicate this park as a vision of Vermilion and the future of Vermilion.”
The project, taking more than a year to complete, transformed a barren property, previously occupied by a gas station and ambulance garage, into an area where people can now convene, converse and chill out.
No playground equipment or basketball courts populate this park.
Rather, the vibrant green space peppered with blooming flowers entices people to, for instance, read novels, fly kites, catch footballs and eat ice cream cones in shady spots.
City officials also encourage community institutions, such as area churches and schools, to schedule on-site performances, including open-air band concerts and outdoor poetry readings in this space.
“It’s an active place where people can gather and enjoy the area,” said Terry Parker, Vermilion’s parks and recreation board chairman.
There’s also an educational component coming.
In addition to seating and seasonal plantings, city planners said they’ll soon install informational maritime history displays at the park.
It’s only fitting, considering the park’s name hails from a 50-foot schooner — dubbed Friendship — which was built along the Vermilion River in 1816 by Captain William Austin. In fact, a silhouette of the Friendship schooner is featured on Vermilion’s flag.
“I hope this is only the first step to have more public space in Vermilion,” Bulan said. “Not only for us, but for generations to come as they grow up and raise their families in Vermilion.”
Making sense of the dollars and cents
Friendship Park, Vermilion’s newest public gathering spot, cost $115,200 to construct.
• $92,200: Amount a state grant provided
• $23,000: Amount of local funds from the city’s budget contributed.