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MISHAWAKA – “Don’t run with scissors.”

As children lined up around the new Rose Park playground for a ribbon-cutting Tuesday afternoon, park superintendent Phil Blasko warned them not to run with scissors as they ran to Rose Park’s new slides.

“Kids, if you have scissors, do me a favor,” he said. “When you’re done cutting, please don’t run to the playground and play with the scissors in your hand.”

A new wading pool, playground, pavilion and restrooms at West End Rose Park in Mishawaka marked the completion of the city’s first phase of redevelopment.

City leaders celebrated the work, which was done largely with city government employees and saved the city tens of thousands of dollars, as the second phase begins construction on bocce courts, Belgian bowling areas, and pickleball and tennis courts.

“This park is a special gathering place for a great, historic neighborhood,” Mayor Dave Wood told the group gathered for the grand opening. “It is made up of Belgian immigrants and Italians who came here about a century ago to seek work with Ball-Band and other local employers.”

Six new outdoor bowling lanes will expand the BK Club’s long-standing ethnic tradition in a sport it has cultivated in the basement of its West End headquarters.

The park’s current historic stone-walled building, which once housed the restrooms, will be converted into a cottage-style food stall with an adjacent patio.

Pickleball and tennis courts are also planned. Wood said the second phase should be completed by the end of 2024.

Both Wood and Blasko praised the unique features the city has tried to create in its parks. The facilities at Rose Park reflect the ethnic heritage of the neighborhood, Wood said, and the goal is to transform the park to bring the historical themes to all residents.

“I saw families coming in from all directions to enjoy this place,” Wood said. “I saw community members coming together and talking. It’s our little piece of Mishawaka, a little piece of Americana.”

City employees were honored for saving the city $100,000 by demolishing the old playground, grading the site, and building new playground equipment from scratch.

Heritage: Mishawaka’s Rose Park to reflect Belgian and Italian heritage in its renovation plans

Much of the landscaping was done by the city, Blasko said, saving about $70,000 over what it would have cost to hire a company to do the work.

Blasko said the new wading pool, as well as the playground, will have areas for younger children as well as areas for teenagers.

“When you look at it, there are ground-level play opportunities for two-year-olds, all the way down to the bucket that holds 50 gallons of water for the teenagers to have fun with,” Blasko said. “We want to make sure that everyone who comes by has something to do.”

Later phases

When Phase 2 is completed, Wood said, the city will have funds for a new Wiffleball field and a new softball field, as well as additional sports fields and a dog run.

In the coming years, the mayor said, by extending the sewer system along West Street, the city will be able to complete the project with a new road and curbs, parking and a path around the park.

Wood said he felt that renovating Rose Park was fulfilling a campaign promise he made to the area in 1999 when he ran for a seat on the city council.

“Today, 25 years later,” he said, “I am happy that we can keep this first and only election promise.”

Email Tribune editor Greg Swiercz at [email protected]