Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 9, 2014

Ox Bow Park Tower bid accepted


---- — GOSHEN — Things are starting to get real for the planned reconstruction of the iconic Ox Bow Park Tower.

Its been nearly four years since the original 1972 redwood observation tower, beloved by visitors of Ox Bow Park for decades, was destroyed by fire through an act of arson in July 2010.

Due to the fact that the tower was not covered by Elkhart County’s insurance, officials with the Elkhart County Parks Department have spent the past few years trying to find ways to fund the historic tower’s reconstruction. And according to Elkhart County Parks Superintendent Scott VanOmeran, it appears those efforts have finally paid off.

During a special meeting of the Park Board held in late April, the board voted in favor of accepting a quote from Ancon Construction for the tower’s reconstruction in the amount of $120,343.

“The proposal was based on our design and some specifications the Parks Department had put together,” said VanOmeran. “That proposal from Ancon was approved, and that will include two of our main goals: a steel substructure with columns and beams, and then ADA access on the first platform, where there will be a ramp that will go out to the first platform.”

While admittedly a hefty sum, VanOmeran said the cost does align with what the department was predicting for the tower’s replacement — a fact VanOmeran attributes to the close relationship the department has had with Ancon since the tower’s destruction in 2010.

“Ancon has been involved with this since the tower burned, so over the years they have provided several designs and estimates,” VanOmeran said. “So yes, it came in right at what we thought.”

As for what the tower will look like when completed, VanOmeran said while the overall look of the tower will be fairly similar to its predecessor, it will include a number of upgrades and new amenities that should be well received by the public.

“This tower’s platforms will be a little larger than the previous one, and it’s a slightly different look as all the platforms will be open, and the stairs are on the ends, not in the middle,” VanOmeran said. “There will be three levels: the bottom platform, intermediate platform, and then the top platform. All in all the dimensions of the tower platforms will be about 27 by 28 feet, and our goal is to have the top platform have an elevation of about 32 feet above the ground.”

While the Parks Department has been able to raise enough money through community fundraisers and generous donations from the public over the past few years to rebuild the tower itself, VanOmeran did note that there is still some additional funding that will need to be raised in order to successfully complete the overall plan for the project.

“The Ancon quote doesn’t include things like benches, things we’ll have to do to make the parking ADA compliant, and some of the other amenities,” VanOmeran said of the project. “So there is still some additional money that we’ll need to raise to get everything done that we want to do.”

As for a projected completion date for the project, VanOmeran said it’s still a bit too early in the game to nail down a specific timeframe for completion.

“It’s all going to be based on when the steel for the tower arrives,” VanOmeran said. “We are in the process of doing some of the geotechnical work, and based upon that, it will go back to the engineers for final engineering. I talked to Ancon about a week ago and they said the material should start arriving in mid-June, and then we’re hoping to have a ground-breaking ceremony for the tower in mid-July.”

Donations can be submitted by making checks payable to “Elkhart County Parks Tower Fund”. The checks should then be mailed to Elkhart County Parks, 211 W. Lincoln Ave., Goshen, IN 46526.