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A trick knee limited me to treadmill and indoor walks this winter. But as March temperatures in Fairbanks finally hit a walkable 30 degrees, I’m itching to hit the trails and parks here in Alaska’s Interior.

One of my favorite parks in the world is Harter Park in Union City. Even on a particularly cold day in December, it is a fine place to walk — even for a guy with a wobbly patella.

My wife Gosia and I not only attended each annual light display but brought visitors with us, as well. We saluted the flag on July 4 ceremonies. I cherished the park’s historic tank since my dad drove a World War II Sherman in North Africa, Normandy, Sicily and Belgium.

She also used the city’s swimming pool in summer three or four days a week. You’d sooner find me in a pink tutu than in fat-shaming trunks, although that may change now that Gosia has me on a strict diet. (I’ve followed that diet to the letter, although admittedly this is only my fifth day on it.)

Here’s a bit of Harter Park history for Randolph County folks who love Harter as much as Gosia and I do.

Local visionaries with a dream for a people’s park enlisted the support of Indiana’s conservation department in August 1937. A park solicitation board was formed and chair Robert Reid arranged for a $7,000 payment for 81 acres on William Grimes’ farm west of the city.

Retired Bartonia grocer and farmer George W. Harter and his second wife Abbie of Oak Street pledged $3,000 of that total.

Harter was civic-minded, a Randolph County commissioner (1912 through 1920) and longtime council member.

Harter’s first wife was Rose (1865-1926), and she and George had a son they named Macy. Harter’s brother James was a well-known blacksmith who owned a Bartonia forge and shop. Another brother, S. F. Harter, was a Union City clergyman.

The solicitation board honored his financial gift and civic service by bestowing his name on the park-in-progress. City authorities raised an additional $5,000 for landscaping, land improvements and park equipment. Many residents of Union City pitched in elbow grease and sweat to turn raw land into a park.

By 1941, the city had a horseback bridle path designed by a landscape architect. Children and couples skated winters on Sol Young Pond — named for a resident who excavated it.

In 1943, work proceeded on a road of crushed stone and parking area. A request to put up a 25-foot-by-40-foot shelter house was delayed until after the war due to shortages of materials. The first Independence Day fireworks display commenced in 1947 under the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The city dedicated a swimming pool in 1948.

Harter died at age 82 on May 8, 1942, following a long illness, but by then his dream of a fine park for the county was assured.

Enjoy a Harter Park photo slide show at