Lowell’s Buell Island has many uses

LOWELL-The only park cared for by the Village of Lowell may also be the only park in Washington County on an island, but that does not mean it is inaccessible.

Located on its namesake island, Buell Island Park is home to Lowell’s two largest community gatherings-Springfest and Octoberfest.

The island is easily reached by car, which is one of the reasons the sprawling, diverse park is used by so many residents both from the island and from the mainland.

“You’d be hard pressed to find people from Lowell who aren’t over there in one way shape or form,” noted village councilwoman Judy Gilham, who is also a member of the Octoberfest Committee.

There are a variety of things to do in Buell Park. Clocking in somewhere between seven and eight acres, the park is home to the village pool, five baseball fields, four shelters, a playground, a half-mile walking track, horseshoe pits and the historic Strait Run School. And while the park does not offer an access point to the Muskingum River, people can enjoy some water recreation there, said Lowell Mayor Dave Pitzer.

“People do fish from the banks of the canal,” he said.

The park has benefited greatly from grant funding. It was an Ohio Department of Natural Resources NatureWorks grant that funded the upgrades of a set of park restrooms a few years ago, the mayor said.

Pitzer said he is hoping the village can secure a new grant to upgrade some of the park’s playground equipment.

“A lot of our equipment is starting to age and we’d like to upgrade it,” he said.

Lowell mother Jennifer Mireles said sometimes heavy rains flood the playground equipment, making it unusable. But otherwise her three young boys love the park.

“They like playing there. There’s some equipment for the younger kids. It’s nice and quiet,” she said.

One of the reasons the park is so diversely used is because it is so well kept, said Gilham.

“It always looks nice. (Park supervisor) Doug Weber takes great pride in it,” she said.

Weber is typically in the park once a week throughout the summer taking care of mowing and other general upkeep, added Pitzer.

The park also has community projects to thank for a lot of its appeal.

Last year Lowell Eagle Scout Patrick Arnold-McKinney designed and help install a wheelchair-accessible swing in the park.

Also within the last year, a group of more than 40 volunteers helped restore the historic one-room schoolhouse on the island after its roof was crushed during the June 2012 derecho.

The baseball fields also get special attention from area residents, said Pitzer.

“The baseball league maintain the fields. They get them ready for games and they seek sponsors to take care of the dugouts,” he said.

The Lowell Baseball League keeps the park packed during the late summer and fall, added Gilham.

“At the end of summer, I’d say there’s not an evening where there isn’t either a practice or a game going on,” she said.

Several community members use the park’s shelters for events, said Pitzer.

Shelter A, which includes a kitchen, is available for a $70 a day rental fee. The other three shelters cost $40 a day. The village can also rent out the entire park for $200 a day, he said.

“There’s no alcohol permitted. But it’s pretty much open for all recreational activities,” he said.

Funding for the park comes out of the village’s general fund. The pool, which is already closed for the season, is funded from a separate account. The pool’s earnings for the summer have not yet been tabulated, Pitzer said.

The park’s biggest event of the year is quickly approaching. Octoberfest happens every year on the first full weekend in October. Preparations are in the very early stages for this year’s festival, said Gilham.

“It’s a big community event. There are all kinds of flea market and craft type booths,” she said.

Vendors pay a fee to rent a space, and the committee also sells food during the festival. All of the earnings go back into the Octoberfest Fund and are used toward the upkeep of the island, she said.

“I think a long range goal (for the funds) is to eventually put electrical wiring and lighting around the track,” Gilham said.