Lions in Action: Palmerston Heritage Park
Transforming a Rail Yard in Canada
A 19-acre abandoned, dilapidated rail yard in the middle of town was a community eyesore. Overgrown grass, weeds and old railroad ties filled the yard. Vandalism and time were taking a toll on the former station. And 100 years of oil spills and coal use had contaminated some of the ground.
The Lions Step In
The Lions club in Palmerston saw the need to clean up the area. They also saw the possibility of making it an incredible public space for the whole community to enjoy and take pride in. And they got the entire community involved.
“It has been a partnership right from the beginning with the town and our Lions club and the residents of Palmerston,” says Dave Wilson of the Palmerston Lions Club. “Residents of Palmerston stop while we are working and lend a hand. They make donations. It’s been great the support we’ve had.”
Hard Work Pays Off
The Lions realize such a large project will take years to complete. They have worked at the park two times a week for three years, laying cobblestones, and putting in equipment and pathways. “We started with the front entrance, playground and splash pool and we’re continuing on,” says Joanne Klonikowski of the Palmerston Lions Club. “Now it’s a real gathering point. We’re going to have a memorial forest and stage areas and all sorts of lovely things including pathways and lighting.”
A beautifully restored pedestrian bridge offers residents a commanding view of the park. And a restored locomotive engine – “old 81” – stands at the entrance to the park, near a Lions sign and statues of lions.
Lions have more than 4,000 feet of eight-foot wide brick pathways to lay, as well as hundreds of trees to plant and stage and sports areas, including basketball and road hockey courts, to build.
Make It Happen: How to plan a community project
- Why did the club decide on this project? »
We could see the overgrown land every day. We knew that children in the community needed places to play and families and community members needed a place with trees, benches and sports facilities.
- How did Lions start the project? »
After deciding on this project, we talked to the city council and contacted the provincial and federal governments. It has been a partnership – a joint project from the start.
- How do you fund the project? »
We figured out how much money we needed to start, and began fundraising and writing lots of grant proposals. We increased our community fund raising. We did everything – sold hot dogs and collected money on street corners – but our big fundraiser is a Valentine’s Dance.
- What kinds of resources does it take to keep the project going? »
It’s been a lot of hard work and we’ve got years and much more to do. It will take many volunteer hours and much community support to finish the job.
- Any special words of advice? »
A partnership with the town and community is necessary for such a large project. The town has been strongly supportive. It’s been hard work but we have enjoyed it the whole time.