A nice walk in the park
June 20, 2012
Scott Crossley stands next to the new bison fence. It was one of several projects he’s managed to accomplish in his first year as manager of the park. (Photo by Glen Werling)
Scott Crossley’s first year as Ouabache State Park’s manager has been a good one, with many accomplishments
By GLEN WERLING
When Scott Crossley was named the manager of Ouabache he had big plans for his new home.
“I had to have a presentation on how I would improve the park and bring in more events,” recalled Crossley of the process that was required when he applied for the position a year ago.
Crossley had several projects that he wanted to see accomplished, and in his first year as manager, with the employees at Ouabache, he and assistant manager Mike Miller managed to accomplish nearly all of them.
“We were able to exceed my expectations. We ended up putting in a new bison fence. It was done entirely in-house with DNR staff. That was basically two miles of fence.
“I sleep a lot better at night with that new fence in place, knowing that the bison are not going to get out,” said Crossley.
“There’s a trail that runs around the bison enclosure. That trail is worn and muddy, and wet all the time. We’re turning it into a gravel path. The bison pasture is full of weeds. We killed all of those and we’re planting prairie seeds in there so it will look like a natural prairie.
Next up will be a viewing platform for spectators wishing to see and photograph the bison. The tall fence limits photography. Crossley, with the help of the newly founded Friends of the Ouabache, hope to change that.
Another accomplishment in his first year is the elimination of overhead power lines in the park.
“We have a little bit more to do yet, but soon the electrical service in the park will all be underground. We accomplished that with the assistance of Bluffton Utilities. Our power lines ran through several stretches of forest. Every time there was a bad storm and a tree fell, the power went out. The lines were getting really old and worn out. We own our own power lines, which is really unique, so anything that happened to them, it was our responsibility to get them repaired. Bluffton Utilities has been really good to us and has worked with us on getting them fixed, but it was a relief to us to get them in the ground and not have to worry about these long expanses of wire.”
A third project that Crossley accomplished was major repairs to the swimming pool. In places, walls were crumbling and there were a number of cracks in the concrete. It also needed repainting. That project was accomplished by private contractors and was completed earlier this month in time for the opening of the pool June 8.
A support group of private citizens called “Friends of Ouabache State Park” has also been formed
The Anderson native landed the job here following assistant manager jobs at Clifty Falls and Monroe Reservoir. Since most of Crossley’s family is located in the Fort Wayne area, he looked forward to landing the manager’s job at Ouabache. He was in competition with several other applicants.
After a year of being here, Crossley admits that it’s not just the park that has impressed him — it’s also the people who use the park.
“I see mostly that folks that visit here are family oriented. Most of our visitors are very caring and considerate of the property. There’s definitely a lot more local people visiting here than some of the other properties where I’ve worked. It’s great to see how much pride the local community takes in this park.”
One goal Crossley still wants to accomplish is more publicity for the park. While the park has a number of people coming from the surrounding communities and even the nearby Ohio counties, it seems to be unknown in the Fort Wayne area.
“We consistently run into people who have come down from Fort Wayne who had no idea this park was here,” said Crossley.
“Ouabache State Park is one of the unique parks in the system. It’s the only park that keeps live animals (the bison) and we will continue to keep them for educational tools. This park also ties so much into one small area. We’re the second smallest park in the system, but we have a small lake, a bike trail that ties us to the Bluffton community, a swimming pool, boat rental, and we have one of the last usable fire towers in the system.
“Also, this parks buildings are almost all historic and were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps,” Crossley said. “The lodge adds another piece that makes this pie complete. It’s in incredible condition for its age.
“For such a small park — and I know I’m prejudiced at this point — Ouabache has so much going for it.”