Park preservation Lititz Springs Park updates 56-year-old Declaration of Trust

By on February 6, 2013

By: RICHARD REITZ Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer



Photo from Sketch Mearig CollectionLititz Train Station and Broad Street carriage path to Lititz Springs Park, prior to Elmer Bobst-funded renovations. The station was demolished in 1957 as part of those renovations.

In 1956, philanthropist Elmer Bobst offered the Lititz Moravian Congregation an unprecedented donation of $100,000 to finance much needed improvements at Lititz Springs Park.

"Elmer had always remembered the park from when he was a boy growing up in Lititz," said Ron Reedy, Lititz Springs Park Board president and local historian. "It was in desperate need of repairs, and his donation was vital in order to make those improvements."

But the pharmaceutical pioneer made his generous offer with a stipulation — he requested that the Lititz Moravian Congregation, which owns the park, establish a Declaration of Trust with the community.

Under this agreement, the Moravians would retain ownership, but Lititz Springs Park administrative duties would be handled by a volunteer board of trustees, with representation from other borough churches, as well as citizens at large.

The donation also funded the demolition of the original Lititz Train Station, which was in a state of disrepair.

Bobst’s offer was accepted, and a formal Declaration of Trust was adopted Oct. 19, 1956.

For the next 56 years, this covenant between the churches and the public served as its governing guide. With community leadership, the park has thrived as the centerpiece of the borough and as a popular destination for both residents and visitors.

But as times changed, the language of the declaration remained the same. Increasingly, it became insufficient to address contemporary matters.

So in November, after nearly two years of review and careful preparation, the park board and Moravian Congregation adopted a new Declaration of Trust that should serve the needs of the park today, and adapt to changes in the future.

A Changing Landscape

A number of things changed at Lititz Springs Park during those years:

? A replica train station was built, at Disney scale, and opened as a welcome center for visitors.

? A caboose was added to the landscape.

? The Fourth of July celebration grew into a significant annual regional attraction.

? Two gazebos were constructed.

? Major events like the Rotary Craft Show began to utilize the park grounds.

? Maintenance costs continued to rise.

? Lititz Memorial Square, owned by the Moravian Congregation, became a management responsibility of the Park Board of Trustees.

? The need for clearly defined legal protections became necessary.

Yet until 2012, Reedy said the only update ever made to the Declaration of Trust was allowing an increase in the number of trustees from 12 to 16 in the mid-1990s.

He cited a good example of a desperately-needed update — the original agreement required bids for all purchases above $400.

"In 1956, $400 would have been a major expense," Reedy said. "That is not the case today." In the updated document, that amount is now $4,000, and it has provisions allowing for future increases in that threshold.

"We became concerned with the language of the original document," Reedy said. "We felt it was time to develop a better administrative function for the park."

So, in 2011, a committee was formed to review and revise the declaration that was born from Elmer Bobst’s generosity. Reedy accepted the role of chairman and was joined by Betty Burkett, Neil Shelley and Dick Posey.

In January 2012, the committee presented their proposed declaration to the Moravian Congregation Church Council for review and possible adoption. However, the Church Council felt some changes were needed. As Reedy put it, "We went back to the drawing board."

The result was five months of additional work, culminating in what Reedy agreed was a vastly improved document.

Split Decision

The new Declaration of Trust was actually divided into two separate documents:

? A lean five-page overview that establishes the relationship between the Lititz Moravian Congregation and the community. It is the "big picture" document that identifies the locations managed by the park board, outlines how trustees are selected, and explains the historical background of the park. It also covers administrative responsibilities regarding Lititz Memorial Square.

? A more complex, 14-page operating agreement, which outlines operations, employees, legal and liability matters, environmental provisions, the roles of the trustees, election procedures, and other matters related to the governing of the park.

To ensure it is always relevant to the times, the operating agreement requires full review and possible modification every five years.

Some of the changes that are part of the new agreement include:

? An increase from 16 to 17 park board trustees.

? Creation of the corporate secretary and treasurer positions as full voting members of the board. Because of the special requirements needed from each of these positions, Reedy said they serve yearly terms with no term limits. Trustees, in general, can serve up to two three-year terms.

? The start of the fiscal year moved from Nov. 30 to Jan. 1.

? Churches are now responsible for selecting their trustees. Reedy said that previously, current trustees would usually search for the replacement in the congregation.

? A non-voting youth committee member position was created. Currently, David Harnly from Trinity E.C. is serving on the park board. In 2010-11, Bethany Han from the Moravian Congregation became the first youth member of the committee.

? It outlines the role of the park superintendent, which didn’t exist back in 1956.

? The naming of a park facility now requires a recommendation from the park board and approval from the Moravian Congregation before it is adopted.

This naming procedure was used last year for the Boy Scout Pavilion, constructed on the site of the old Boy Scout Cabin, which was torn down in March.

"Our new Declaration of Trust and Operating Agreement are more complex, and trustees will need to be well versed in it," Reedy said.

Essentially, Reedy said the public should not notice any differences at Lititz Springs Park. And that’s the point.

"Lititz Springs Park, with its incomparable beauty and its scenic serenity, is certainly a place of community pride," Reedy said. "This Declaration of Trust will ensure that Lititz Springs Park remains a community legacy."

As a privately-owned park for public use, Lititz Springs Park relies heavily on contributions from organizations and citizens who appreciate its existence. It is financially maintained through rental fees for park facilities, the annual Fourth of July celebration and antiques show, and contributions from various community organizations, churches and citizens. More LITITZ SPINGS PARK, page A18