By Rick Palsgrove, Groveport editor
Groveport is a town rich with park land with several municipal parks as well as nearby Metro Parks.
But do you know which was the first park to be built in Groveport?
I believe the first park constructed in town is Blacklick Park, located at 770 Blacklick St. (at the east end of the street). For many years it was the only park in Groveport. I’ve often heard, but never been able to confirm, that the park was built during the Great Depression in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) program.
By the mid-1930s Roosevelt’s WPA began to have an impact on Groveport. The WPA helped build the village’s water system and water plant in 1936; laid concrete sidewalks throughout the village in 1935; washed and painted the walls and ceilings of Groveport School; and built several outhouses in the village and area farms.
One plum WPA project slated for Groveport did not come to pass as records show the construction of a public library was proposed for Groveport in 1935, but rescinded with no explanation in 1937.
But in combing through old WPA records I found no mention of Blacklick Park.
Records in the Groveport Municipal Building as well as the Groveport Heritage Museum also do not reveal much on the park’s origins.
Though its birth year remains a mystery, that is a minor curiosity because Blacklick Park has played its role as a pleasant neighborhood park well.
Blacklick Park’s original footprint was three acres, but if you include the nearby natural wooded areas and the old Scioto Valley Traction Line trail that extends to historic Ohio and Erie Canal Lock 22 it fills about 21 acres. The trail also connects the park to Groveport Park. The well preserved remnants of the Ohio and Erie Canal are visible and run along the length of the park.
The park’s historic significance is noted in a Ohio Historical Marker that explains how in the 1800s the park’s original core site was once home to a canal boatyard where canal boats were built and repaired. The marker also mentions how the electric interurban railway – the Scioto Valley Traction Line – ran on Blacklick Street and then along the canal from 1904 to the 1930s.
I recall the first time I visited the park as a little kid in the 1960s. My older sister took me and some neighborhood kids on a walk through town to the park on a fine summer’s day for a picnic of baloney sandwiches, potato chips, and Kool-Aid. Back then there were wooden picnic tables scattered about among the tall trees. I remember that embedded in the picnic tables was a metal emblem that read, “Groveport Lions Club,” most likely because the club provided the tables. There were playground swings and a tall metal slide to play on as well as space among the trees to play “tag.”
I also recall the original flag pole there encircled by a now long gone narrow driveway. The concrete base of the flagpole was emblazoned with “4H,” as the local 4H Club must have erected it as a project.
That old flagpole is still there, but it fell into disuse in later years and a flag had not regularly flown from it for some time. On Memorial Day in 2008, the late Mack Harris, a United States Air Force veteran who lived near the park, took note of the lack of a flag flying from the pole and decided to do something about it. He walked over to the park with an American flag he normally flew on the front of his home and raised it on the old flagpole in Blacklick Park.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Harris, in a 2008 interview. “That flagpole on this important day (Memorial Day) was now dressed up with a flag. A flag raised in a public park has substance to it. It provides a focal point.”
Harris noted that, when he walked into the park that Memorial Day morning in 2008 to raise the flag, there was a group of people already in the park talking, laughing, and enjoying the holiday.
“They saw me walk to the pole with the flag and when I raised it there was a hush in the park,” said Harris. “The people in the park knew and recognized the importance of the flag being raised.”
Harris said the old flagpole was a bit wobbly, but, despite its age, he said the pole’s rope, pulley, and cleat worked perfectly when he raised the flag.
In a recent years a new flagpole was erected by the city in the park and it serves as a testament to Harris’ efforts.
Today the park still has great trees and open spaces as well as more playground equipment, a small basketball court, a shelter house, and benches. It remains a nice, quiet spot to listen to the birds sing, hear the wind rustle the leaves, feel the warmth of sunbeams filtering through the trees, and see the flag flying on its new pole.