River park plans advance

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

If there’s one thing Lee Gumfory isn’t short of, it’s resolve.
The middle of last month, after fretting about it for some time, the former city commissioner coaxed his nephew, David Gumfory, to help him cut weeds and clean up the park area on the west side of the Neosho River west of Iola. Other volunteers were bitten by Gumfory’s enthusiasm.
Bill King, director of Public Works for Allen County, gave a hand. He sent trucks carrying large boulders, which were placed strategically along the river’s edge of keep rambunctious motorists from taking a fall. Others were situated for decorative purposes.
“I have great respect for Bill and his crew,” Gumfory told county commissioners Tuesday morning, and reported there were things yet to do, including ones having to do with safety issues.
“We need a light on the west side and Jack McFadden (who owns land adjacent to the dam on the east side) gave permission for his land to be cleaned up, too,” he said. The McFadden land has been used by fishermen as though as it were public for as long as anyone can remember.
City Administrator Judy Brigham, at the meeting, said the city “is working on a light. Kent Tomson (electric distribution supervisor) talked to Rural Electric Association,” but has yet to reach accord.
Brigham explained that REA, now known as Heartland Rural Electric Coop, has proprietary rights west of the river; the city on the east side.
“I can’t image why REA would care, might even donate one,” Gumfory said.
“Maybe if you asked,” Brigham replied.
As for the east side, county commissioners said they would give their blessings to King’s crew helping with cleanup when they had time, provided “we get something in writing from Mr. McFadden.”
Gumfory allowed that shouldn’t be a problem.
“We need to get the east side cleaned up,” he added, “to make the whole thing complete.” He also said picnic tables — arrangements are being made for concrete ones — and pads for campers might be added.
Iola owns the land west of the river, but seldom have city crews been dispatched to cut weeds or remove trash. In recent years the small park had degenerated into a nighttime haven for activities that sometimes prompted law enforcement officers to become involved. Trash piled up and was removed by floodwater as often as human hands.
The city recently brought a trash receptacle to the park and city commissioners have promised that city crews will pay more attention to the park.
“People fish there and a lot more just like to go down, stop and look at the river,” Gumfory said. “Every time we’re down there, there’s a steady stream of cars.”
County Commissioner Rob Francis chimed in: “I like to go there, watch the river and think.”