The city block at Fourth and Auburn Streets in Elsberry was once full of single family homes where children played and clotheslines spanned the backyard displaying the family’s wash. However, because of damage from numerous floods that have effected Elsberry’s south side, many of those homes fell into disrepair and were eventually abandoned. Seeing an opportunity to rid the city of blight, the city fathers applied for funding that would allow them to demolish many of the dilapidated homes with the stipulation that no homes be erected on the lots and that they be used for activities consistent with green space. But with two parks and a cemetery to maintain, the small municipality never developed the properties beyond ensuring that they were mowed. In time, deteriorating structures on several adjoining private lots were also razed and became overgrown, eventually resembling a small forest.
In line with their objective to, “instill community pride by eliminating deterioration,” the Elsberry Community Growth Association (ECGA) identified the properties owned by private individuals and the city as a potential site for the creation of an amphitheater and festival space. Doing so would A) bring value to these properties and hopefully spur development on Elsberry’s south side, B) add value to the community by offering more entertainment options, and C) appeal to people regionally thereby establishing Elsberry as a destination and generating tourism dollars to supplement the local economy.
There was one primary challenge impeding the organization‘s progress: it takes money to make money. The ECGA needed a partner for this major undertaking, someone who had a vested interest in the community as well as the ability to make a large gift. In return for their assistance, this coveted partner would be given the naming rights to the soon-to-be park. Thankfully, the group didn’t have to look long. Boasting 129 years of successful community banking all the way back to their roots in Elsberry, Providence Bank was determined to be the ideal candidate. After meetings between ECGA President Sam Byers and Providence’s CEO Kit Stolen and Executive Vice President Jen Megee, the Bank elected to partner with the ECGA through a $10,000 gift for the acquisition of real estate and the necessary additions to prepare the property use.
Work is well under way in the new Providence Bank Park which will host it’s first events this summer with the ECGA Summer Concert Series presented by Heartland Restoration from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. on June 23, July 21, and August 18. Providence Bank Park will also host some of the events for Elsberry’s 67th Annual Fall Festival the weekend of September 29.
Future projects include the construction of a permanent covered stage, restroom facilities, paved offstreet parking, a children’s play place, and a walking trail along the Lost Creek levy connecting the south entrance of town to the ballpark.
For more information on the ECGA, visit their website at www.growingelsberry.com.