Four years after it was set ablaze by an arsonist and destroyed, the Ox Bow Tower is making a comeback.
The Elkhart County Parks Department will host a groundbreaking ceremony for the new structure at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, at Ox Bow County Park south of the chapel parking lot.
The public is invited to attend, and there will be no gate fee to the park that day. Light refreshments will be served.
To date, the department has raised about $134,600 to rebuild the well-loved structure. Since 2010, a Facebook page called Rebuild Ox Bow Park Tower has garnered more than 5,600 likes.
One of the big changes for the tower is location — it will be built into a hillside south of the park’s open-air chapel. The previous tower stood freely on the chapel’s north end.
Another change is the tower’s level of accessibility. The first level of the new tower will feature a handicap-accessible ramp, and both the ramps and the platforms throughout the structure will be larger than they were in the old tower.
“This will come in handy for the cross-county meets when parents and grandparents gather on the tower to watch the beginning and the end,” said Ronda DeCaire, superintendent of operations for the parks department.
The hope is that these larger spaces will be used to accommodate educational programs.
“We can envision things like an astronomy class going to the top and doing their star studies. Entire school groups will be able to go up at one time,” DeCaire said.
The tower will also have steel support beams and brackets with wooden railings.
Early cost estimates for a new tower ranged between $90,000 and $100,000, but the price tag eventually increased along with the costs of steel and lumber, according to the parks departments’ most recent program guide.
The sole bidder for the project contract was Goshen-based Ancon Construction, which bid $120,343 earlier this year.
The remaining funds will be spent on amenities for the tower including signs, a bike rack, benches and a handicap-accessible parking lot.
Of the $134,600 raised for the new tower, about $42,000 came from funds that were originally set aside for another parks department project.
Another $32,000 came in the form of a matching grant from the Elkhart County Community Foundation and more than $10,000 was raised from events hosted by the Two Rivers Running Club, according to DeCaire.
About $8,000 came from individual donations and $4,000 was raised by children at Concord Ox Bow Elementary School. The rest came from grants and other forms of donations, DeCaire said.
“It took four years, but it will be worth it,” she said.
The tower is slated for completion by the end of the summer.
Ox Bow County Park is at 23427 C.R. 45, Elkhart. For more information, visit www.elkhartcountyparks.org.