Spotlight on Belpre’s Depot Park

BELPRE – Tucked away in the center of Belpre is a quiet little park with a big display that thrills adults and children alike.

The aptly named Depot Park is home to a railroad passenger car and a restored caboose which houses a railroad museum.

“Vincent loves the trains. He’ll just stand and look at them forever,” said 32-year-old Bambi Smith, of her 5-year-old son.

The trains, which are housed behind a fence for protection, are open for exploration during the annual Railroad Day celebration, which is sponsored by The Ohio and Little Kanawha Division of the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society Inc.

“The Railroad Historical Society has done all the refurbishing on the rail cars as far as that goes. It’s been a great blessing. Everybody enjoys it,” said Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz.

Railroad Day, which happens every June, usually draws a large crowd, he said.

“They’ll have the cars open and they’ll have some beautiful displays. They have the model railroads and so forth,” he added.

However, it would be nice if the trains were open to the public more often, added Smith.

Smith and a friend were enjoying a baby shower under one of the park’s three pavilions on a recent evening. The park is popular for small get-togethers, said Lorentz, because it has a relaxed atmosphere with minimal passing traffic.

Shower attendee Kelly Nutter, of Little Hocking, agreed.

“It’s not really crowded. There are no ball fields so you don’t hear all this yelling and screaming and cheering, which is great if you’re at a game. But not if you want to have a party,” she said.

There is also plenty of playground equipment to keep the children occupied while the adults chat, added Julie Nutter, 23, of Belpre.

The playground equipment, which includes two play structures, a metal slide and swings has been updated within the past few years, said Lorentz.

The park also benefited from some recent flower planting projects spearheaded by the Belpre chapter of America in Bloom. The group, a national nonprofit, promotes community beautification programs through the use of flowers, plants and trees. It added flowers around the flagpole and installed some colorful structures that feature painted rubber tires that are used as planters.

Several chapters congregate in Orlando every year to have their beautification projects evaluated and judged on a scale of one to five roses. This year the group received four roses for its efforts, said Lorentz.

The park also features a paved walking path, an adjacent parking lot and restrooms. The restrooms are the one area that could use a little sprucing up, added Kelly Nutter.

According to Charlotte Powell, curator, secretary and genealogist at the Belpre Historical Society, the city purchased the 1.9 acre park in 1988 using city and grant funding.