La PORTE — Kesling Park renovations were celebrated on Friday at the opening ceremony for the newly rebuilt Fort La Play Porte. The event was held in recognition of the hard work that the community has put in to the playground over the summer.
The ceremony began with the dedication of the road that that runs through Kesling Park. The La Porte Park and Recreation Department took the opportunity to honor former Park Superintendent, Dean Heise, by naming the road the “Dean Heise Parkway.”
Current Park Superintendent, Mark Schreiber explained, “the naming of Dean Heise Parkway is something that we’ve thought about for a number of years now, to honor his years of service with the Park Department.”
Heise started with the department as Recreation Director in 1973 and quickly became Park Superintendent. He spent a total of 41 years with the La Porte Park and Recreation Department.
La Porte Mayor Mark Krentz was called to the podium to recognize Heise.
“It is indeed an honor to take part in this dedication for Dean Heise, tonight," Krentz said. "I’ve seen the work he’s done over the many years [he was with the Park Department]. He was Park Superintendent when my dad was the mayor. His heart and soul has been in it all the way. It is with a great deal of honor that I get to dedicate the Dean Heise Parkway this evening.”
Heise was presented a road sign bearing his name and was asked to say a few words to the audience. He used some of his time to talk about Kesling Park, and how far it has come since he started with the Park Department more than 40 years ago.
“Most of the generations of La Porte don’t remember that there was a time when Kesling Park wasn’t here. It has become such a tremendous recreational package for La Porte that includes just about everything you can imagine,” Heise said, “I’m so proud of Kesling Park. I’m proud of the fact that I have been able to be there from start to finish. The playground facility has been such a wonderful addition for the kids of La Porte.”
After the parkway dedication, Schreiber called the Fort La Play Porte Community Build Steering Committee to the front of the crowd to be recognized.
The committee initially anticipated that the project would be a six day build in mid-June. However, due to excessive rain, the rebuild could not be completed in the projected time frame. By the end of the six days, the playground was only about 65%-70% complete.
With not enough volunteers, and no contractor, the committee had to figure out how to complete the rebuild on their own.
“We did it with the help of many dedicated volunteers. They were here during the days, evenings and weekends. Slowly, but steadily, everything that needed to happen on this beautiful playground happened,” said Schreiber.
Despite the hiccups along the way, the department and volunteers seemed to agree that a community build was the way to go. Schreiber told the audience, “the friendships and community that we’ve built is something that I will never forget, and I hope the people here who volunteered never forget, either.”
The local response to the renovations has been incredible, according to Schreiber.
“There has been a line for the zip line, merry-go-round and obstacle course, and we’re just so happy to hear these laughing screaming voices in the background tonight,” he said.
Krentz gave some dedication remarks, “I participated 20 years ago when this build happened, and it was an honor to be a part of it then. I’ve got to tell you, I just can’t tell how much more of an honor it is now to be the mayor of our city and see the city come together. Everyone came together to make something so fun and beautiful for our city.”
The ceremony ended with a ribbon cutting. All of the volunteers that came out to the ceremony gathered in front of Fort La Play Porte to be a part of the moment that marked the playground’s formal opening.