This spring Karen Hornaday Park got a lot of love. And not just from young people. Between 40 and 50 volunteers, coordinated through Church on the Rock Homer, prepared the playground, campground and ball fields for a summer of fun.
Through the City of Homer’s Adopt-A-Park Program, the church, which has an average attendance of 450-500 people, has committed to perform spring and fall maintenance on the park.
“This year I think the biggest challenge was having enough work for everyone,” said Calvin Ralph, who has coordinated the two workdays so far, the most recent on May 3.
Anyone can volunteer to adopt a city park, and for Ralph it was as simple as going to the city and saying, “We want to adopt a park.”
The Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club was the first group to officially adopt a park when they took on Ben Walters in 2011. That leaves plenty of city parks and trails in need of a little extra TLC. The city supplies everything for the work to include ladders, tools, paintbrushes and paint.
“We just supply the manpower,” said Ralph.
A couple of weeks prior to the park cleanup, Ralph meets with Angie Otteson, city parks coordinator, and they walk through the park and make a list of things to be done. This year wood chips needed to be replenished, garbage picked up and the fence around the perimeter of the playground was in need of varnish. They also checked bolts on the equipment and inspected the integrity of the wooden structures.
Skip Bowersox, co-pastor of Church on the Rock Homer, along with Aaron Weisser, said that the church has a lot of young families with close to 100 kids who are in the fifth grade and younger.
“So the chances are good that if that park is seeing wear and tear, it’s some of our kids,” Bowersox said, adding he appreciates that the park is available for the kids in the community, including his two young daughters.
“We have a motto of being a church that matters to the community — and this is one way of being intentional about mattering,” said Bowersox.
When the Homer Playground Project organized the building of the playground, Jonathan Walker, former pastor of Church on the Rock Homer, encouraged members of the church to participate. Bowersox said it was a natural fit to continue their involvement through adopting the park.
“What was cool about the HoPP was that the whole town was already coming together for that,” said Bowersox. “We appreciated that and valued that, and wanted to be a part of maintaining that.”
When Ralph schedules the workdays, he contacts Miranda Weiss, who is a coordinator for HoPP, along with Deb Cox. Weiss lets HoPP volunteers know the date so they can stay involved with the playground. The intent with HoPP was to step back once a group came forward to take over the playground, said Weiss.
“Calvin’s made it super easy. He’s just taken the ball and run with it,” she said.
There are some large new additions to the park this summer. A picnic pavilion and stone fire pit with benches welcome visitors for a day of sunshine or rain, and an 18-foot-8-inch pyramid-shaped climbing net now stands in the area between the pavilion and playground.
“I think the net was the last big thing,” said Weiss, in regard to HoPP’s plans for the playground.
The fire pit and benches were sponsored in part through donations to HoPP by the Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club, and by Alaskan Coastal Freight, in memory of Ray Clapp.
For those interested in adopting a park there is an application online at cityofhomer-ak.gov/recreation/adopt-park.
Toni Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.