November 28, 1996 in Washington Voices

Resident Overseer Will Look After Valleyford Park

By The Spokesman-Review

Valleyford Park is getting its own eyes and ears.

A live-in overseer is due to move, with a trailer, onto the grounds of the 20-acre park just south of the Palouse Highway.

Never mind that the park season is over for the year. Sue Cronk, one of the leaders of the effort to develop this park, is delighted by the latest development. She sees it as an antidote for vandalism.

“Just having someone here should stop a lot of the problems,” Cronk said.

And then, in the dusky afternoon, came the sound of a deer whistling in the brush nearby.

“Did you see the deer down here? There’s a doe and two fawns,” she said. “She’s worrying about her babies.”

Cronk, 40, her father, Rich Laib, 68, and her son Brandon Cronk, 14, gathered a few weeks ago to show off Valleyford Park to visitors.

Cronk helped get $33,000 for park improvements from the state, contingent on the community raising a matching amount of money or pitching in labor.

From picking rocks by hand - Brandon Cronk is one of several local teenage experts in this fine art - to area contractors who have moved dirt, poured concrete and done other chores, the community has responded.

Laib has a lifetime of memories centered around the Valleyford area. He served on the old Valleyford township board, played softball in the meadow just west of the park - “I was the big pitcher,” he said - and in the 1960s helped work on the park.

“There’s a big chimney still over there,” Laib said, pointing west from under the pines. “That was the old dance hall. It was a real recreation area.”

Back in the late 1920s Valleyford was a thriving town, complete with milk train, passenger train and a business district.

“Then, in a space of about 15 years, it all went away,” Laibe said.

Well, not all. The park hung on. Sue Cronk’s first trip to the park came when she was 5 or 6 years old.

Now a mother of two, she’s developed a wish list of park projects. And she would be happy to share those ideas with any would-be Eagle Scouts or scouting troops looking for a project.

“I have tons of projects in mind. We need more park benches, picnic tables, a tether ball,” she said. “And I can visualize a nature path with signs identifying the plants. There’s so much natural vegetation.”

Cronk pulled her fingers up in the sleeves of her sweater, away from the cold.

The park, now owned by the Freeman School District, also serves as an outdoor classroom from time to time.

The arrival of a resident overseer depends on the weather and construction of water and septic facilities.

Playground equipment will be installed in the spring. If the grass seed sown late this fall doesn’t take, part of the park will be hydroseeded.

, DataTimes

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