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The Perry County Parks and Recreation Department deserves congratulations for its perseverance in seeing the Eagles Bluff Park project through to completion.
Building a new visitors center and restroom building, repaving the deteriorated parking lot and entrance to the park, rebuilding the deck overlooking the Ohio River and the Cannelton Locks and Dam and putting new fencing around that deck had been planned by the parks board since it purchased the property from the Army Corps of Engineers in 1999.
All those things, plus a new shelter house complete with picnic tables and grills, were unveiled to the public at the dedication of the park project Wednesday.
The project went through numerous delays and some changes. Grants had to be obtained to finance most of it and when the board thought it had acquired enough money, the first bids, opened in 2005, were all about $400,000 over what was budgeted for it.
Some groups might have given up the whole idea then. But Perry County Recreation Director Dan Adams and the parks board kept fighting for it, searching for additional funding and exploring ways to cut costs.
A $600,000 federal Transportation Enhancement Grant administered by the Indiana Department of Transportation financed most of the project, but grants from the Perry County Community Foundation and the Schergens Foundation also provided necessary funds for the local match to the Transportation Enhancement Grant.
Some compromises had to be made. The visitors center is smaller than original plans called for and does not include the once planned interpretive center telling about the history of transportation on the Ohio River. But as any good politician will tell you, without some compromises nothing gets accomplished. (Several politicians at the county, state and federal levels, including Sen. Richard Lugar and Rep. Baron Hill, did go to bat for the project.)
At Wednesday's dedication ceremony Adams called the deck overlooking the Ohio River the centerpiece of the project. And it is basically what the parks board envisioned all along. It has a tempered glass fence around it which Adams said architect Carl Conner II designed "to give everyone, regardless of their size, a clear view of the vista."
The park was created in the mid-1960s and was a popular site for visitors until it fell into disrepair and was closed in 1981.
As former parks board member Dorothy Kessner said at Wednesday's dedication, "It was sadly missed when it was closed. Now we have it back in all its glory and all its beauty. It's a dream come true. It's been a hard and frustratingly long accomplishment."
Now it is up to visitors to use the park responsibly and keep it looking as beautiful as it does now. The Perry County Sheriff's Department and Cannelton Police (part of the park's land is in the Cannelton city limits) can help by patrolling the grounds on a regular basis.
The park is expected to be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except in inclement weather.
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